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Government challenges third sector to lead the way in transforming public services

11 December 2008

The Minister for the Third Sector today challenged the third sector to show the way in transforming public services.  A series of documents published today details the Government’s commitment to working in partnership with charities, voluntary groups and social enterprises at the vanguard of 21st century public services.

Kevin Brennan, Minister for the Third Sector, said:

 “I am issuing a challenge to the third sector. Work with us in partnership at all levels of government to demonstrate the value you bring and help us to achieve excellence and fairness in our public services, for people wherever they are and whatever their background.

“Today we lay out the ways in which the Government is providing the platform for an independent third sector to lead the way. Together we can transform our public services, bringing them closer to the communities they serve and ensuring they are fit for the 21st century.”

Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) publishes the Government’s response to the committee’s report Public Services and the Third Sector: Rhetoric and Reality

The Government wholeheartedly endorses the committee’s call for more intelligent commissioning of public services and is promoting this message through its National Programme on Third Sector Commissioning which has training provision for up to 3,000 commissioners.

Welcoming the report and its recognition of the third sector's capacity to deliver excellent and innovative public services, the Government also addressed the committee’s other key concerns:

Public Services Action Plan: Two Years On

A progress update on the Public Services Action Plan published in 2006, illustrating the Government’s key achievements, including:

Lynne Berry, Chief Executive of WRVS and chair of the Public Services Steering Group said:

“I welcome the challenge from the Minister to make the partnership between the public and the third sectors really work for our communities. As the report, 'Public Services Action Plan - two years on' acknowledges, changing people’s lives for the better and opening up new opportunities is the driving force for all third sector organisations. “

“We have proved that we are often better able to understand and meet people’s needs in a flexible, innovative and holistic way. Our task is to combine the best the third and public sectors have to offer.”

Working in a Consortium guidance

Backing up this commitment to partnership working, the Government is providing practical advice and information for smaller organisations who may wish to work together in order to bid for public service contracts.

For many, smaller third sector organisations, forming a consortium can be a practical way to build capacity for larger contracts, giving vital flexibility when the global economy looks uncertain. However, the document also advises that organisations should seek legal advice in the initial stages of this kind of partnership as cases may differ.

Social clauses pilot results

Today's final publication reveals the results of a project examining “social clauses” in contracts, as a way of promoting the social impact of public service delivery. The results revealed real legal obstacles to the use of such clauses, paving the way for focused research on Social Investment on Investment (SROI), a tool which will put a financial value on an organisation’s social impact.

Jennifer Inglis, representing the Social Enterprise Coalition, said of these findings:

“This report represents the conclusion of a challenging piece of work which has stimulated debate within Government and Local Authorities. It has progressed the debate on using social clauses from one of legality to the wider and more important concern of developing practice in the use and evaluation of social issues in commissioning.

“Social enterprises delivering public service or providing services to the public sector offer a range of benefits to stakeholders that are not fully valued for a number of reasons.  Improving the ability of social enterprises to communicate the value they offer is a must, but developing the skills and confidence of commissioners to act on such communication must happen at the same time.

“The implications of this report are thus wide ranging and the commitment to future work is to be welcomed as an immediate next step which will need to be developed further if we are to build a public sector marketplace built on maximising value for money as a whole.“

Notes to editors

  1. The Government’s response to the PASC report Public Services and the Third Sector: Rhetoric and Reality will be available on the committee’s website at [External website]
  2. The Public Services Action Plan: Two Years On
  3. The Office of the Third Sector’s guidance document Working in a Consortium is on the OTS website at
  4. The full results of the Social Clauses pilot are available
  5. The Office of the Third Sector in the Cabinet Office is the part of Government that deals with policy on charities, voluntary groups and social enterprise.
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