Third Sector organisations and the State have sought to work together in England since the inception of the Welfare State, yet rarely has there been greater debate about this relationship than at present. Successive governments have sought to redefine the dominant pattern, with the policy focus moving from more ad hoc relationships to an (expressed) commitment to partnership and, more recently, to a push towards relatively passive delivery of state contracts. This paper maps the sector, charts this changing relationship and explores key areas of debate: the role of charitable organisations in the English policy environment, the importance of scale with regards to relations between State and sector; and the impact of commissioning in recent years. We conclude by considering the potential implication of change for the distinctiveness of the Third Sector.
Keywords: Third Sector; England; Charity; Partnership; Commissioning