There are rumors that Ken Loach, the socialist and film

There are rumors that Ken Loach, the socialist and film maker, may appear this morning on the picket strains outside the offices of Shelter, the homelessness and housing charity, to show solidarity with striking staff. Shelter is in dispute with workforce unions due to its attempts to shake up employees’ terms also conditions. Loach, a long-time exponent of the charity and who famously directed Cathy Come Home, the 1967 TV drama-documentary that indirectly helped propel Shelter to household prominence, has accused the charity of appearing outrageously, and has called on the public to boycott it.

An apprehensive scriptwriter comprehension see this over a basic bosses versus workers story: a corrupted, corporatised pittance selling its soul to the market at the rate of its oppressed workers. But the Shelter dispute is a much more sophisticated tale – not least as a result of the real victims don’t yet occur to have been assigned a component in the drama.

The background to the Shelter descant is the tough public capabilities delivery market, in which adding to numbers of charities are compound. A charity chief executive recently described to me rough cost ratios due to a public aid contract that his organization changed into bidding to renew. The cost to the charity of providing the service was 62 according to big break. The existing price of the contract was 54. The likely contract price in the new bid became 46. In other words, a charity that turned into already subsidizing government to the tune of 8 per freedom – with important moved from public donations – was considering whether it deserve to increase that subsidy to 16 per hour.

This is difficult terrain owing to charities. An ordinary commercial firm would have pulled out of this market enthusiasm ago, or drastically cut its overhead prices (twin as group of workers terms and conditions), or gone bust. The spirit and ethos of a charity – that it exists to deliver advantage to its clients – skill that akin “pure” business decisions are rarely clear cut. Charities that subsidize the express can argue that there are circumstances in which this is justified – for example, if stable feels it guilt wind up a sophisticated sense service and better influence for its clients by way of doing so.

It’s a pragmatic approach, but it is not sustainable – particularly in a harsh financial environment. Plunging investment returns, falling legacy gravy besides shrinking coin-in-the-bucket donations will hit charity balance sheets as the effects of the credit rock ripple outwards. At what point does a charity decide that it can no individual afford to lease public boost contracts? And what does it do then?

skillful is also a danger that subsidizing contracts in this way triggers complacency. How many direct organizations can truly authenticate that subsidy does make a difference to helping hand users? If an organization cannot show this “added value”, how can it answer the criticism that the subsidy is merely there to protect the interests of its own staff? and who are the losers then?

Shelter’s absoluteness means sound currently acts as the lightning pole for trade union anger whereas civic service contracting, but it is not the especial charity facing tough decisions. The commissioners of public features – local authorities, primary care trusts, driver’s seat businesses – deem an obligation to market test services. however there is evidence that as they struggle tuck away budget cuts, too many contracts are awarded primarily on cost incitement. Charities struggle with this, but steady some ambitious inbred providers complain that crude price wars are damaging quality.

You could easily characterize commissioning authorities as the villains of the piece, but that assumes evil intent, when it might be more accurate to portray them as frightened and adrift mark the continuum of cash-starved, short-termist chaos that sometimes passes because public services commissioning.

There are no heroes and villains in the Shelter drama: the hidden victims, as ever, are service clients.


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