As a sector we welcome a bigger role for the users of public services. This is about a transfer of power from the state to the user and to the citizen. There are three strong reasons for this reform:
- its our right as citizens
- its a more efficient way to deliver services and
- its a way to improve outcomes for people-i.e. better health by being in control.
Paul Jenkins, of Rethink, spoke of how important it has been for people with mental health illness to have power over the way they are treated, to move from a "poverty of aspiration" to achievement. .
And our sector role here is both in the provision of personalised services, in campaigning for a fully funded and regulated service, and in providing advice and support for people under a personalised regime.
It is a challenging agenda. Instead of having one contract with a local council there may be 2000 contracts with each individual user. And they will need to be persuaded to buy their service from us. As opposed to other private or public providers. Or even other third sector providers. We will have to sell our services. Be much more accountable.
Councillor Lorna Campbell, the Cabinet member in Lambeth for health and social care, spoke about the project we have in Lambeth to look at the implications at local and community level of this change. This is part of the overall work of the Commission which is due to report in full later in 2010. So the Commission is working at both a strategic and a very practical level.
But to be clear, against a background of spending cuts, we have to watch any attempts by local councils or health authorities to use this as a cover to cut spending on these services. Matthew made a great point that this is also about delivering more bang for the buck. Making a pound work harder and deliver more. It's " Yes we can" from our sector!
Then back to a meeting with members in the ACEVO office to discuss issues for our "Ask" from the Parties in their manifestos. We had a particular focus on volunteering and the value it plays. I was particularly struck by the example of the Ramblers Association (their CEO, Tom Franklin, is an member) who talked of the work they do for their 125,000 members and some 14,000 active volunteers. One of their projects is about encouraging people with obesity problems to walk more! A great example of how our third sector can make a serious contribution to promoting better health and preventing ill health.
Mick Aldridge of the The Public Fundraising Regulatory Association made an excellent point about how we need a framework for citizen participation- which ranges from active volunteering through to just giving. Governments need to encourage and implement measures to promote that participation at all levels.
So I was well buoyed up by the time I went for a catch up with the excellent third sector team of Angela Smith MP and Tessa Jowell MP, who bat for us in Government and who are both such fans of what our sector can achieve.
I am often struck by the level of enthusiasm, talent, ingenuity and sheer energy amongst CEOs in our sector. It is no wonder that Governments look to us for answers!!