The Opportunities and Challenges of the Changing Public Services Landscape for the Third sector in Scotland: A Longitudinal Study (2009 - 2013): Year 4 and Final Report

The report uses qualitative longitudinal research within 21 third sector organisations to investigate their responses to the opportunities and challenges of the changing public services landscape in Scotland between 2009 - 2013. It builds upon the earlier reports on each of the first three years of the project.

1. Introduction

Chapter 1 presents the background, research objectives and methodology of the four-year research project entitled 'The Opportunities and Challenges of the Changing Public Services Landscape for the Third Sector in Scotland'.

1.1 The work was commissioned by the Scottish Government and carried out by the Employment research Institute at Edinburgh Napier University and the Centre for Public Services Research at Edinburgh University. The report uses case studies and focus groups with third sector organisations to understand their responses to the opportunities and challenges of the changing public services landscape in Scotland between 2009 and 2013. It builds upon the earlier reports on each of the first three years of the project.

1.2 The Scottish Government has acknowledged that the third sector has a key role to play in delivering public services that are high quality, continually improving, efficient and responsive to local people's needs. The report will inform future partnership working with the third sector.

1.3 The research objectives were:

  • Identify the role and distinctive added value of third sector organisations delivering public services;
  • Identify features of effective partnership working between the public sector and third sector organisations;
  • Assess the impact of Scottish Government and local government policy and budget priorities on third sector organisations' changing practice and management;
  • Track the impact of the economic downturn and budget limitations on third sector organisations' roles in public service delivery;
  • Describe how third sector organisations contribute to progress on Single Outcome Agreement and the work of Community Planning Partnerships;
  • Enable third sector organisations to articulate views on the appropriateness of funders and commissioners' oversight, evaluation and management procedures.

1.4 The methodology involved qualitative longitudinal research with 21[1] third sector organisations based in Scotland over a four-year period. The organisations that participated in the research were providers covering a range of public services including: health and social care; employability; and learning. National, regional and local providers were included in the research.

1.5 A qualitative longitudinal approach was used to ensure that the complex and fluid experiences of participants over a four-year period were reflected in the report. A qualitative approach ensured that interviewers could explore important and sensitive issues in depth with research participants. The importance of understanding and reporting changes over time within third sector organisations and how those changes are embedded in patterns of social, economic and political change has meant that a broad range of issues were explored during interviews between researchers and participants.

1.6 The methodology involved two key components: (1) in-depth case studies with eight third sector organisations and; (2) three focus groups involving 13 additional third sector organisations.

  • The case studies included face-to-face interviews with staff at different levels of the organisation. These included: chief executives; other senior officers/managers; research/policy officers; business/planning managers; operational and line managers; front line staff delivering services.
  • 13 organisations were divided into three focus groups. Each focus group pulled together organisations with strong interests in particular areas. These were: (a) equalities; (b) social care and health care, and (c) employability/economic development/regeneration (note that these categorisations were not applied rigidly and there was some overlap in the activities of organisations). One representative from each organisation (usually the chief executive or a member of the senior management team) attended the focus groups. Where an organisational representative was unable to attend the focus group, telephone interviews were conducted.

1.7 Appendix A outlines the methodology in more detail. Osborne et al., (2011, 2012a/b) reports on the results of the previous three years. All quotations in the current report are from Year 4, unless otherwise specified.

Structure of the Report

1.8 Chapter 2 outlines the policy environment over the previous four years of the study and briefly highlights some of the key issues affecting the third sector in Scotland. The self-directed care agenda, welfare reform, public spending reviews and the Christie Commission are briefly discussed in relation to their impact on the third sector.

1.9 Chapter 3 considers the impact of policy and funding changes on third sector organisations between 2009 and 2013 and draws on the empirical data collected for this research.

1.10 Chapter 4 considers the impact of the changes on partnership relationships with external bodies, organisational leadership, and changing organisational structures and working conditions.

1.11 Chapter 5 presents conclusions.

1.12 Appendix A presents the methodology. Appendix B presents the Year 4 interview schedule. Appendix C provides details about the characteristics of the participants. Appendix D presents organisational profiles of the participating third sector organisations. Appendix E provides case studies of change over the four years in four of the participating third sector organisations.


Email: Jacqueline Rae

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