The experience of housing associations (HAs) has not been taken into account in many of the discussions about the transfer of responsibility for delivering public services from statutory bodies to voluntary agencies.
This article addresses this omission by reviewing the recent history of the larger HAs. It addresses six [sic] key issues that might yield lessons for other voluntary organisations considering invitations to become mass service contractors in the 'Big Society': independence;
- user satisfaction and empowerment;
- the ability to tackle needs flexibly across the boundaries with other agencies;
- involvement in campaigning;
- recognition as part of civil society; and
- their ability to nurture the spirit of volunteering and giving.
This article is about housing association but it could equally be about X-town library service. There is a steep learning curve for organisations here – not least of which are the provision of a public service and working to a contract. Conflicts of interest may well occur.