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Welfare Reform on the Web (September 2009): Welfare state - UK

Social economy involvement in public service delivery: community engagement and accountability

M. Di Domenico, P. Tracey and H. Haugh

Regional Studies, vol. 43, 2009, p.981-992

Public service delivery in the UK has become increasingly decentralised with provision delegated to voluntary and community organisations and the private sector. It is argued that because voluntary and community sector organisations are rooted in their communities, they have the capacity to provide solutions to social issues that meet the needs of local people, and provide the additional benefit of building social cohesion and social capital. However, by embracing multiple public service providers, the government has faced criticism for condoning uneven standards of welfare provision. Questions have also been raised about the extent to which social economy organisations are genuinely engaged with communities as well as the extent to which their governance structures allow them to be accountable to local stakeholders. This article critiques the increasingly prominent role of social economy organisations in public service provision in the UK. In doing so it highlights a relatively new form of community-based organisation, the development trust, which may be well placed to deliver public services cost-effectively, to implement the systems required to ensure accountability for the quality of service delivery, and to involve communities in local decision-making.

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