The intellectual framework of voluntary social service c. 1940-60
This thesis examines the debate on the future of voluntary social service following the establishment of the post-war welfare state, commonly regarded as a painful period of adjustment for voluntary organisations, and argues that this debate sheds light on the later resurgence of the voluntary sector. It assesses the policy instruments available to governments in managing the voluntary sector in the 1940s, and the influence of this regulatory framework on the institutional forms available to voluntary organisations. It explores the legal and ethical distinction between endowed charities and voluntary organisations which Labour inherited from the Liberal political tradition, and how this interacted with the conceptual framework articulated by leading proponents of voluntary social service. The nature of voluntary organisations meant that traditional theories of voluntarism were often at odds with the routine maintenance of extended organisational structures, especially with the methods required to finance voluntary organisations. A consensus on proposals to resolve this conflict emerged in the late 1940s and this reflected structural changes within the voluntary sector which had given rise to a class of professional managers whose views increasingly converged with those of Labour policy makers. The proposals included the creation of autonomous funding bodies to be financed partly from the assets of defunct charitable endowments, providing financial stability for voluntary organisations, satisfying the requirements of accountability without compromising the independenceo f voluntary organisations. The new funding bodies were not created, but a new framework of corporate governance for voluntary organisations was implemented in the 1960 Charities Act, which brought voluntary organisations within the regulatory regime governing charitable trusts. The assimilation of voluntarism to charity ensured that the Idealism that inspired voluntary social service organisations was tied to compliance with institutional and legal forms which impaired their capacity to express social criticism.