Over the last decade, government agencies, the community and voluntary sector, and academics have all noted the changes difficulties, and tensions being caused by government policies and processes surrounding social service provision. In recent years government processes for buying social and health services have undergone considerable change, change evident in ‘Investing in Services for Outcomes’, the ‘Vulnerable Children and Children’s Action Plan’, and more recently in the work of the Productivity Commission. While government policy on the one hand acknowledges the significance of the community and voluntary sectors’ local connections and infrastructural strength (Treasury 2013), on the other hand the ever increasing targeting of social services and government funding processes ignore the ‘added value’ of community providers.
This research unpacks the nature of the contribution of community and voluntary sector providers in New Zealand and evaluates the importance that their unique contribution should play in government decisions about purchasing of social services. Our research shows that the value delivered by the community and voluntary sector (their ‘added value’) precedes and goes well beyond what they are contracted to do by government. This ‘community value’ – a term better reflecting the kaupapa of the sector and what it delivers – is only possible because of the characteristics and infrastructures that are developed and reproduced in the community and voluntary sector, their ‘organisational specific capital’ in the words of Treasury. Government policies and funding models which undermine the characteristics and infrastructure of the community and voluntary sector will jeopardise the overall contribution of the sector to individuals, communities, the government, and society as a whole.