According to Lord Nat Wei, the UK government’s Big Society adviser, the funds the non-profit sector has lost from local authority funding cuts will be more than compensated for by an increase in social investment and payment-by-results contracts. Speaking at a meeting on Monday, he said that the social investment market could be worth about £10 billion in future, and that it had been estimated that the value of payment-by-results contracts to voluntary sector groups could grow to £60 billion. The operative term here, of course, is ‘in future’. In the meantime, efficiency should be the watchword. He spoke of the need to develop what he called a ‘social auditing sector’ made up of organizations that helped charities to measure the impact of their work.
Although a number of charity leaders have been loud in their applause of the government’s latest budget, his remarks are likely to prove something of a red rag to a bull. Moshoda Khatun, an outreach worker at the charity City Gateway, told the same meeting that her charity would be unable to do its work without government funding. A post in response to Lord Wei’s speech on the website of Third Sector wondered whether he was ‘for real’ or whether the story were not an April Fool’s Day prank four days too early. Another, from a charity in the north of England that helps disabled people set up their own businesses, called it ‘a disgrace to talk about social auditing or other ephemeral buzzwords meaning doing nothing for the people who really need help’.