In a recent post about Big Beasts versus Social Enterprises, I noted that creating the conditions to ensure that social enterprises and voluntary and community sector organisations can play a part in the provision of public services would require a practical support programme and commissioning strategy, supported by the government.
In July this year – and I’m not quite sure how I missed it – the Cabinet Office announced a £10m fund to do precisely that: the Investment and Contract Readiness Fund.
The focus seems to be on developing the skills and infrastructure of VCS organisations, rather than, say, levelling the playing field in actual procurement processes (preferential treatment for VCS providers, anyone?).
One further cautionary note I’d highlight is that I hope infrastructure organisations don’t get the bulk of the funding in the hope it will have a “trickle-down” effect to frontline organisations. Though a national delivery partner is a very good idea (an NCVO, say), having a multiplicity of local delivery partners would dilute, in my view, the potential impact of the fund. (Anyway, there’s always the Transforming Local Infrastructure Fund of £30m for them.)
Nevertheless, the Investment and Contract Readiness Fund is a welcome boost and one that I think VCS organisations – including disabled people’s user-led organisations – will benefit from.