The ‘third sector’ policy and the art of reciprocity in British society

Authors: Anna Badyina*, University of Oxford
Topics: Social Geography, Qualitative Research
Keywords: third sector policy, dialectic of experience, collective social praxis
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Riverview I, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 41st Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper explores the contradictions of voluntary “third sector” services in the UK. The UK has a rich tradition of voluntary social support groups to help people in hardship. The relationship between the state and the third sector has evolved over time and taken different forms, ranging from the third sector being the main and independent provider of social services to its key involvement in building the post-war welfare state and, more recently, to the third sector providers being contracted by the state to provide social services. The latter role has been supported by the state on the assumption that voluntary groups are better placed to deliver services appropriate to users’ needs. However, voluntary bodies have struggled to accommodate rising social needs and raise concerns about the complex human hardship circumstances that are beyond their control and capacity. There is also a frustration that voluntary practice is losing its independence and is increasingly conditioned through statutory procedures to allow the state to relinquish its moral obligations. This paper discusses this complex socio-political dynamics. It challenges the view of voluntary practice being merely technical modes of support. It situates voluntary action within its everyday practice and politics in order to advance the understanding of the voluntary action as a form of dialectical critique or the one that exposes the contradictions of people's lives under dominant sociopolitical system and finds ways for transformative changes. The paper also explores the prospects of using practical experiences of voluntary groups for improving government policy.

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