The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), an umbrella organisation for the charity sector has published a report assessing how the sector fared as a result of the welfare reforms carried out by the coalition government.
The research, carried out in 2014, found that where the voluntary sector had not been consulted early enough in the process, charities had struggled to prepare for the changes or had wasted resources preparing for something that ended up being delayed. It therefore called for charities to be involved at an earlier stage of the planning process for the next stage of welfare reforms to create better partnerships.
However, to make this possible, the report also highlighted the need for the sector to be properly resourced to reduce the pressures on staff and services that have arose from the growing expectation that charities will compensate for reductions in state provision.
The report said: “Without sustainable financing the voluntary sector will quite simply not be able to pick up the slack in future.”
Nonetheless, it said that a negative outcome was not “inevitable” if closer partnerships between charities and government through national and local compacts could be formed.
Overall, the research involved focus group discussions with 34 organisations, and 12 in-depth interviews as well as 57 responses that they received to a national consultation.
Charlotte Ravenscroft, head of policy and public services at NCVO, said: “We know that voluntary organisations have local knowledge, networks and trust from service users which means they are often well placed to help people navigate reforms. They can also contribute valuable insights from the frontline to inform better policy making.”
“However, this report highlights the challenges voluntary organisations face, from funding cuts, to an expectation that charities will fill the gaps in statutory provision, to inadequate information from government on the timing and nature of the reforms. Voluntary organisations can play a valuable role in tailoring and joining up service provision – this report shows that they must be more involved.”