Using the voluntary sector to provide services to children and families with complex needs as an alternative to social work services- what are the benefits and risks?

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


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    Frequently, the voluntary sector can be involved in providing services and support to families and children with complex needs, which generally seek to complement existing statutory provision and avoid service duplication. Increasingly, the voluntary sector is being used to deliver these services due to their particular expertise and ability to engage service users (e.g. Acheson, 2001; Appleton, 2005; Bell, 2007; Buchbinder & Shoob, 2013; Collins, 2006). However, these services are being provided against a background of contracting State welfare service provision and neoliberal polices emphasising the role of the free market in providing more efficient and economical services (Alcock, 2012; Henriksen et al., 2015; Hogg & Barnes, 2011). These developments have created new opportunities for the voluntary sector to expand their role in providing social welfare services, increased government interactions with the voluntary sector and strengthened the ability of the voluntary sector to influence social welfare policy and service provision (Hogg & Barnes, 2011). Yet, despite the dominance of the voluntary sector in this area, there is a lack of robust research into the role of the voluntary sector in meeting the needs of families and children with complex needs and how this compares with available social work services (see Dickinson et al. 2012; Rees et al. 2012). This project sought to address this gap in our knowledge by answering the following four questions:1.What are the main issues with the commissioning, governance and delivery of services by the voluntary sector?2.What is currently known about how services provided by the voluntary sector can influence family outcomes and does this differ depending on the model of delivery and/or governance used?3.Does the voluntary sector supplement, hinder or substitute statutory social work services?4.Are there gaps in our knowledge, policies and/or data collection which may need to be addressed in order to develop an effective, efficient and economical model of service provision in this area?


    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationBelfast
    PublisherQueens University Belfast
    Commissioning bodyHealth & Social Care Board
    Number of pages47
    Publication statusPublished - 06 Dec 2017

      Research areas

    • Voluntary Sector, Children and Families, Complex Needs, Social Work Services

    ID: 138531091