Charity leaders are warning that the Government’s moves to give Greater Manchester power over health and social care spending could be fatally flawed because voluntary organisations appear to have been forgotten in the plans.
Under the policy, which has been championed by Chancellor George Osborne, ten councils, 12 NHS Clinical Commissioning groups and 15 NHS providers will come together to take over the region’s £6bn health and social care budget.
Ministers hope the scheme will become a trailblazer for the transfer of power from Whitehall to English regions.
Talks are underway with the Sheffield, West Yorkshire and Liverpool city regions over receiving devolved powers as long as they follow Manchester’s lead and accept an elected mayor.
But the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo) protested that the detailed planning in Manchester barely recognised the role of charities in delivering social care for children, the elderly and vulnerable adults.
It includes providing “meals on wheels” and befriending services for older people, help for homeless teenagers and transport for all ages.
Acevo accused the Government of a “grave oversight” after a memorandum of understanding setting out the plans said that the “role of the third and private sector in the arrangements . . remains to be determined”.
Its chief executive, Sir Stephen Bubb, told the Independent: “There’s a huge amount of hype and rhetoric surrounding the Greater Manchester and public service reform agendas. I welcome devolution with open arms as a magnificent opportunity to reform and restore services, but it appears the rhetoric doesn’t match the reality.”
He said that the voluntary sector, which would be crucial for delivering services, should not be treated as an “aside in a flagship devolution document” and said it was essential to get the Manchester scheme right because of the continuing squeeze on care budgets.
A Government spokesman insisted the “historic Greater Manchester devolution agreement” would closely involve the third sector.
“Strengthening communities and supporting individuals through working together with the third sector will be central to the approach the Government take to improving health and supporting people to take more control over their own health and care,” he said.
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