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  • Author or Editor: Heather Buckingham x
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This study explores the impacts of contractual government funding and competitive tendering on voluntary organisations (VOs) providing homelessness services in Southampton, UK. Although service quality has arguably improved, the interview data suggest that implementing competitive tendering within the voluntary sector is not unproblematic. Three key issues are discussed: changing demands for expertise, increasing job insecurity, and tensions between competition and cooperation among VOs. The article argues that if VOs are to retain the distinctive qualities for which politicians have lauded them, procurement and monitoring procedures must be carefully attuned to the social relations and practices of the voluntary sector.

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While the boundaries between different sectors within the welfare mix have always been indistinct, increasing involvement of third sector organisations (TSOs) in government contracts has accentuated the ‘blurring’ of these boundaries over recent decades. This paper builds on existing analyses of hybridity in the third sector and presents the welfare pyramid as a theoretical framework within which hybridisation and its implications for TSOs of different types can be explored. Taking homelessness TSOs as an example, it highlights the existence of a division of labour among these organisations (which seems to have been exacerbated by contracting) and underlines the need for policy makers to carefully consider TSOs’ varied roles, strengths and limitations.

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This chapter focuses in greater detail on the crucial New Labour and Coalition government periods; comparing and contrasting the policy and practice of the two periods. It has two broad aims: to provide a historical overview of policy, practice and academic debates that have surrounded the often controversial role of the third sector in public service delivery; and to tease out underlying continuities and points of difference in the stances of these governments towards the sector. The analysis is framed by the welfare triangle developed by Adalbert Evers, with a consequent focus on the interfaces with the state, market and informal sectors. Whilst shifts in discourse and practice are detected, the chapter identifies an underlying continuation of trajectories initiated in the 1980s including movement towards market-based forms of provision, the reduction of the scale of the welfare state, and aspirations to harness the perceived positive contribution of the third sector.

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The increasing prevalence of food banks in the United Kingdom has attracted considerable public debate. This article brings the authors’ experiences and observations from their involvement in one inner-city food bank into dialogue with both policy issues and the Christian theology that motivates many food bank volunteers. It argues for an attentiveness to what food banks say to society as well as what they do, and highlights their potential as spaces of encounter and mutuality.

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