The article explores the vital contribution of the community and voluntary sector as a voice for the voiceless and as a conduit of information about society’s unmet needs. The challenge, however, is that these roles are being severely constrained by the heavy dependence of the voluntary sector on government funding, as well as the particular type of contracting that has become the norm. Supposedly there is an equal contractual relationship between the state and the voluntary sector, but the reality is very different: the relationship is asymmetrical, with the state holding most of the cards. Accordingly, Grey and Sedgwick recommend a complete rethinking of the current contracting model. Without this, the role of the community and voluntary sector in democratic debate will be undermined and its capacity to develop new and innovative responses to changing social needs will be hindered.
Sandra Grey is a Senior Lecturer in Social Policy at Victoria University of Wellington. Sandra is currently working on a major project examining activism by the New Zealand women’s, union, and anti-poverty movements since 1970.
Dr Charles Sedgwick is a sociologist with strong interdisciplinary interests. During the course of his career he has taught at the University of Canterbury and at Victoria University of Wellington.