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Title: Understanding the relationship between the Voluntary Sector and the State through a fields based theory approach : children's preventative services : a case study example
Author: Body, Alison
ISNI:       0000 0004 6349 0668
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2016
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Between 2010 and 2014, Kent County Council (KCC) delivered over £350m worth of cuts to public sector delivery. Embarking on a 'transformation agenda', the local authority sought to achieve savings through a public commitment to a commissioning and procurement agenda, identifying preventative services and partnership with the voluntary sector as a key priority for ensuring long-term savings. In November 2010 KCC were issued with an 'inadequate' rating from Ofsted (2010) for safeguarding and services to looked-after children. This combination of austerity and the need to transform children's services to address the Ofsted rating led to unprecedented shifts in terms of the balance and nature of service provision in the field of children's services. Adopting a multi-method qualitative approach, this research presents the experiences of voluntary sector organisations (VSOs) and Commissioners working within the field of preventative services. Considered as well placed to engender trust, cooperation and address social welfare issues, the voluntary sector is often viewed as the natural provider to support vulnerable children and families. The increasing focus on commissioning as the dominant mechanism to manage relationships between the voluntary sector and state draws into question the relational factors that underpin the formal and informal processes, which govern these dynamic, and often fluid, relationships. Analysed through the lens of fields theory, the significant findings of this research highlight three category types of VSO responses to these changes; conformers, intermediaries and outliers. Within these categories, focusing on the relational and contextual factors that underpin the interactions within the field, the findings reveal competing strategies VSOs employ to secure or advance their position. The research questions many of the assumptions underpinning commissioning, concluding that commissioning can yield positive benefits for VSOs, however, overall it remains a highly political, contested and relational process. The findings suggest that rather than promoting innovation and creative responses within the voluntary sector, commissioning is at risk of inhibiting and limiting this activity. In response, individual VSOs pursue certain strategies and employ particular social skills to mobilise their ideological bias within this contested picture. Such findings reveal significant impacts for policy and practice within the field of preventative services for children, and suggest wider lessons for voluntary sector and state relationships.
Supervisor: Bradley, Kate ; Kendall, Jeremy Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral