Partners or instruments: can the Compact guard the independence and autonomy of voluntary organisations?
Government’s use of voluntary organisations to deliver services, especially through the mechanisms of contracting and the welfare market, have raised concerns about the impact of government funding on the autonomy and special characteristics of voluntary organisations. This study investigates whether key actors from the voluntary and statutory sectors in two local authority areas perceive that the Compact on Relations between the Government and the Voluntary and Community Sector in England will be an effective guardian of voluntary organisations’ independence. It focuses specifically on three key dimensions: first, voluntary organisations’ ability to control who uses their service delivery programmes and how these programmes are run; second, organisational structures and stakeholder autonomy within voluntary organisations; and, third, the institutional and economic environment within which organisations seek funds. The study in fact finds little evidence of adverse impacts from government funding. There is some hope amongst voluntary sector respondents that local compacts will provide a general framework and philosophy to protect voluntary organisations’ independence, but considerable scepticism about practical effect and appropriate implementation. Significantly, compacts are perceived by statutory officers to have little role in moderating the ecological and institutional environment of the welfare market.
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