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Government is conducting a major reform of public services as part of their wider Big Society and localism agendas. This includes measures to devolve power to communities and local authorities; increase the diversity of public service providers; extend personal budget use; give communities the right to bid to run public services; give communities the right to run community assets; increase use of payment by results. Voice4Change will be responding to the public service reform agenda with a particular focus on personalisation.
The BME VCS and public service delivery
BME VCOs and social enterprises play a critical role in ensuring that disadvantaged BME communities can access public services. They reach beneficiaries that others cannot or do not and respond to gaps in provision by developing different ways of doing things. BME VCOs deliver:
BME specialist services: services that are sensitive to cultural, religious and linguistic needs and reach communities that other providers label ‘hard to reach’.
Access to generic services: by building confidence in BME communities and informing the policies and activities of generic providers.
Both generic and specialist services are needed. It is important that race equality is embedded in generic services and that good practice and innovation from the BME VCS is mainstreamed into wider public service delivery. At the same time specialist services need to be supported to reach the needs of the groups others do not reach and to develop innovative solutions to meet their needs.
What we want to see
- Accountability: Government should ensure checks and balances are in place to ensure a minimum standard for equality and human rights objectives. There needs to be a national steer whilst allowing local authorities to be responsive to local needs. Equality Impact Assessments should be applied to changes in policy and practice, and Government at all levels should comply with equality and Compact duties in public service design and delivery.
- Consortia bidding: Government should ensure that aspirations to engage local people in decision making have resources for implementation and monitoring. Equality and diversity should be built into engagement mechanisms and there should be checks and balances to ensure that the BME voice is not marginalised.
- Value of specialist service delivery: Government should recognise the value of and legal opportunity to deliver BME specific services and support their continued role at a national and local Government level.
- Opening up contracts to small providers: Commissioners should invest in building meaningful consortia and partnerships where organisations have identified this as an appropriate course of action. When taking on consortia ensure that the role of each consortia member is clearly defined and reward a track record of successful working with the breadth of the VCS.
- Supporting the VCS: Local authorities should review the availability of diverse services in their area and market-shape and pump-prime services where this will ensure the needs of communities are met. This should include putting in programmes of support to allow organisations, including BME social enterprise, to transition to new ways of providing services, to diversify their offer and change their systems and procedures. Where possible Local Authorities should work with local BME infrastructure organisations to provide this support to the BME VCS.
- Payment system: Payments should be made in advance and the appropriateness of payment by results assessed when the needs of vulnerable communities are being addressed.
- Social return on investment: Public sector contracts should include criteria for social return on investment as well as value for money and allow for flexibility in how contracts are delivered so that community needs can best be met.
What we are doing
We have ...
- Produced a briefing on the personalisation agenda and its implications for the BME VCS.
- Responded to the Cabinet Office Open Public Services White Paper consultation. Read our briefing.
- Responded to the CLG Community Right to Challenge consultation
- Produced a submission and briefing on the 2010 Comprehensive spending review.