As a charity delivering a number of public service contracts across young people’s services, employment and criminal justice we recognise many of the challenges and opportunities highlighted in the report.
We believe there are a number of key recommendations in the radical report, that if implemented would support the young people and adults we work with to realise their full potential. The recommendations related to data, and especially impact could be transformational. At the moment it is very challenging to compare programmes and impact and understand where funding is going. It can also be difficult to access Government data that could help to evidence whether a specific intervention or programme is making a real difference. The datalab concept highlighted in the report, already in place for criminal justice through the MoJ could and should be expanded across all the key areas of social policy providing real time assessments of programme efficacy. NPC have undertaken some great work to push forward this concept (https://www.thinknpc.org/examples-of-our-work/initiatives-were-working-on/data-labs/). Ultimately as the MoJ has shown it is possible to develop the concept into a working tool but their needs to be significant political backing and development must be funded and prioritised.
The focus on ‘Social Value’ commissioning is welcome, but the reports’ recommendations potentially don’t address one of the greatest barriers to charities and social enterprises playing a greater role in delivering contracted public services. Having experience leading a large private sector provider of public services and now a charity, the greatest barrier is often the cost and time involved in bidding for opportunities. This can often stretch to millions of pounds and multiple years for the largest contracts, meaning these will nearly always be won by the largest private sector organisations. The size of these contracts in themselves are often a major barrier, therefore if Government wants to encourage more charities to bid and potentially win it needs to design this in from the start by making opportunities a realistic size and scale with appropriate risk transfer.
The proposed ‘Community Right to Serve’, could also help to shift the balance towards more civil society organisations having a greater say in the design of public services, and giving a voice to the people they support. This could be a truly radical change but as the report highlights will require a significant shift not only in approach but also in culture.
As a charity supporting over 50,000 young people every year, the proposals related to a ‘Service Kickstart’ are welcome and we are already planning to have a significant number of Kickstarters join our charity and are looking at ways to undertake a mini National Citizen Service to support local communities as well as provide a substantive job role and accredited qualifications. A combination of these approaches could give young people negatively impacted by the pandemic the best possible chance of a brighter future.
Finally, the recommendations related to funding and unlocking the National Fund and dormant assets are welcome, and provide the potential to support long term interventions which are so important. The key will be ensuring the funding reaches the people and organisations it needs to and is able to make a real difference.
We look forward to seeing these recommendations taken forward into action and working collaboratively with others across civil society to support their implementation.
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