Rachel works in a voluntary sector organisation supporting vulnerable tenants in East London. She has also worked for a national charity working with people with learning difficulties. She spoke to Socialist Worker.
‘As well as the organisations that bid for public sector contracts, many organisations – like the one I work for – are filling the gaps of welfare provision that the state used to offer.
In some ways this may make it easier for a council to make cuts – if there is a voluntary organisation or charity there to pick up the pieces.
At the moment many local councils are only offering help to people who are assessed as in acute or severe need, so many other needs are being met by voluntary groups.
As councils have run down many services the voluntary sector can look more dynamic and imaginative.
But if they lose funding, then the service is cut.
There is intense competition in the voluntary sector. I know of one contract for support services that has just come up in East London and there are 12 organisations bidding for it.
Over the past few years I’ve seen organisations that used to have more of a campaigning role moving to provide more services.
This makes it much harder for them to campaign against the government or the council they are providing services for.
There are other problems with the voluntary sector – often the wages are very low. Also there is weaker union organisation than in the public sector. Workers are split up across lots of small units and that makes it harder to organise.’
Andy worked with a voluntary organisation that gives resettlement advice to offenders.
‘If the chief executives of the charities that are bidding to build new prisons really believe this will do some good then they have taken the bait from the government.
If they win the bid, they will not be able to run the prisons in a radically new way, they will still have to follow all the rules, the same regimes that are failing now.
It beggars belief.
There are lots of people working in these organisations that are committed to genuinely helping people. People working in this field are increasingly angry at the corporatisation of prison charities.
The government itself advised the private sector that they should try to get major charities and third sector organisations on board to help their bids.
These charities are providing left wing cover to private firms that want to profit from prisons and to the government who wants to help them.’