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  • Author or Editor: Christopher Damm x
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The Work Programme is the coalition government's flagship employment programme. Since its conception, it has emerged as a critical case in debates concerning the third sector's involvement in commissioned public services. After over two and a half years of delivery, this article reconsiders the concerns raised by elements of the third sector prior to the programme's launch. Drawing on a range of published research findings and documentary evidence, it considers three main areas of debate: whether third sector organisations have been squeezed out of provision, whether they have been mistreated when working as subcontractors, and whether the programme has proved successful for their client base. It concludes by reflecting on the third sector's role in the Work Programme, and government-funded quasi-markets more generally.

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There is a long-standing debate within voluntary sector studies concerning the relationship between state funding and volunteer levels within voluntary sector organisations (VSOs). Due to a lack of suitable data, this debate has previously suffered from a lack of aggregate, quantitative evidence at the sector level. This article helps to fill this gap by exploring the relationship among larger charities in England and Wales (those with an annual income over £500,000), using a relatively new regulatory dataset on charity funding sources. The findings reveal a complicated relationship, with some small to moderate associations between the key variables. Among VSOs with at least some state funding, state income is correlated with smaller proportions of volunteers, even after controlling for size and industry. However, those with no state funding at all appear less likely to use volunteers, and to use them in lower average numbers, than those with at least some state income.

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This article presents a new system for classifying UK charities’ activities according to their charitable purposes. It also outlines our attempts to use keyword search rules to apply these classifications to the various UK charity registers. The classification results and code, which are made freely available online, help to address the limitations of existing classification schemes in the UK context. Depending on the scheme, these include a lack of detail and coverage of important subsectors, a lack of systematic data collection and limits on the number of classifications per charity. We discuss the pros and cons of different approaches and show that the keyword searching method provides a sufficiently accurate and transparent approach. We also present some preliminary results on how commonly each ‘tag’ is matched against UK charities, as well as exploring how the results compare to existing classifications in the register of charities for England and Wales.

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The third sector has a long history of delivering employment services alongside statutory and private sector providers, but the landscape of provision has changed with the introduction of prime-led supply chain contracting and payment by results. This chapter draws on data from a qualitative study of the Work Programme and findings from an evaluation of Work Choice, the two main programmes operating in the field to explore how third sector providers have responded to these changes. It highlights the varied strategies TSOs have employed to navigate reputational and financial risk, and to then re-orientate services to secure a position in the evolving field. The chapter underlines the diversity of providers within the field and challenges a normative approach to understanding third sector experiences in these forms of public service delivery.

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UK employment services are increasingly delivered by public, private and third sector organisations in quasi-markets that can be viewed as fields with actors (providers) competing for resources and position. The commissioning of the Work Programme produced an ‘episode of contention’ as fewer resources, shifting policy priorities and new contractual arrangements restructured relationships within the field. Drawing on empirical research the paper demonstrates how providers with different resources have navigated this period, employing strategies to manage challenger and incumbent roles and maintain their position in the field. The findings contribute to both field theory and our theoretical understanding of employment services.

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