The Third Sector in Europe

The Third Sector in Europe

Globalization and Welfare series

Edited by Adalbert Evers and Jean-Louis Laville

This book explores Europe’s third sector – the non-profit organisations and providers of social services such as mutuals, co-operatives, associations, voluntary organisations and charities: these elements of a civil society are important yet often overlooked features in contemporary socio-economics and social policy.

Chapter 6: The welfare mix in the United Kingdom

Marilyn Taylor

Subjects: economics and finance, welfare economics, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, economics of social policy


Marilyn Taylor INTRODUCTION Until relatively recently, the commonly used terms used to describe the ‘third sector’ in the UK have been ‘voluntary action’, the ‘voluntary sector’ and ‘charity’.1 The language of a ‘non-profit’ or ‘not-for profit’ sector has become more familiar with the introduction of market approaches to welfare. But most official documents continue to refer to the voluntary sector (Commission on the Future of the Voluntary Sector, 1996; Home Office, 1998; HM Treasury, 2002). Nonetheless, while it has the advantage of familiarity, this is a term which is getting harder and harder to sustain. Firstly, some dispute the whole concept of a separate sector. The boundaries between this and other sectors seem to be increasingly blurred, first with the onset of privatization and more recently with the New Labour government’s emphasis on partnership. Secondly, distinctions are increasingly being made within the sector, especially between the larger professionalized organizations, often providing services on contract to government, and organizations which are seen to be closer to their associational roots and embedded more closely in the local or interest communities they serve. The third problem with the term ‘voluntary sector’ is that, as a recent government report argues (Cabinet Office, 2002, p.14), it fails to encompass the diversity of the organizations within it: as the sector becomes more and more entrepreneurial, the term only really captures one element of their activity. It is even harder to see how the term has any relevance to the co-operatives and social enterprises, which often have...

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