Scottish charities consider partnership working

  • Charitable organisations in Scotland may become more collaborative with the private sector
  • Reductions in public spending in Scotland is likely to accelerate this process
  • Ideological differences need to be overcome in Scotland before this is likely to happen on a large scale

Scotland and England may both be part of Great Britain, but the way charity partnerships are run varies significantly in the two countries, due, in part, to the way that relationships have developed with public bodies.

“In England, roles have blurred dramatically in the last few years. There is more collaboration between the public, private and third sector, and a new paradigm of working has developed. Charities have an enormously important role to play in this, not only in front-end delivery but also as a mechanism for joining the dots between health and local government,” says David Forster, Head of Risk Proposition at Zurich Municipal.

We recently sponsored a Guardian roundtable event that focussed on the way charities currently operate. One major talking point was that due to increased austerity, Scottish councils and government may be forced to significantly cut spending and outsource an increasing number of services to the third sector in the coming years.

This in turn may see charities with increased workloads and shrinking budgets compelled to consider new funding relationships with the private sector.

The fragmentation between health and social care has long been a concern on both sides of the border, and an ageing population is adding further pressure. All sides of the political debate agree that future needs and expectations are not, currently, going to be met.

“To drive future efficiencies, there will need to be more engagement with the private sector and charities in Scotland,” continues David.

Different direction

Over the past couple of decades, the English model has seen the creation of internal markets and encouragement of the private sector to both provide and commission healthcare, culminating in the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

England continues to champion further devolution of NHS powers through ‘vanguard sites’, such as Greater Manchester, and a five-year plan that promotes greater use of charities and partner organisations.

Meanwhile, Scotland has gone in a different direction. Since devolution, fragmentation has largely been shunned, with no regional NHS trusts established and the avoidance of a market-driven model.

There is clearly going to be a real pressure on us in terms of a reduction in public-sector spending. But the other side of that coin is that this sector can also be the most creative and most innovative at a time when pressure is upon us

Ian McLaughlan, Chief Executive, Youth Scotland

However, there is more collaboration between health boards, local authorities and the third sector – and a firm commitment to ‘joined-up’ integration of health and social care provision across the whole country.

“Partnership working in Scotland is conceptually a developed idea; there is nothing new or radical about it – but it is different from England,“ says David. “There is far less activity in Scotland using the private sector, whereas in England it’s moved to a mixed-market economy in which there is no longer really a public sector, more a case of public services being delivered by the public, private and voluntary sector.”

Alleviating funding pressures

The public sector could also alleviate some of the funding pressures in Scotland, by tapping into the concept of corporate responsibility (CR). Big businesses run large CR schemes, aimed at giving something back to local communities and delivering a positive impact.

“The CR approach comes more naturally in England,” says David. “Scotland still needs to decide if this is going to happen.”

With the outsourcing of services likely to increase in Scotland in the coming years, partnerships and collaborations between health boards, local authorities and charities will have to be fundamentally re-examined in terms of risk-management and risk-transfer solutions.

“The whole integration agenda actually significantly increases risk, opening up vulnerabilities in Scottish health boards that they didn’t have before,” says David.

“This environment creates challenges around ownership, responsibility, governance and accountability – who is actually in charge when things go wrong? You need to be very clear on who is in charge, who is managing the risk and who is responsible. Please talk to us if this is something we can help with.”

Charities achieving more for less

For Scotland, this new world of public sector engagement – achieving more for less – is an area where charitable organisations are likely to play a huge part going forward.

Ian McLaughlan, Chief Executive of charity Youth Scotland, told the Guardian roundtable discussion: “There is clearly going to be a real pressure on us in terms of a reduction in public-sector spending. But the other side of that coin is that this sector can also be the most creative and most innovative at a time when pressure is upon us.”