Third Sector Housing Partnerships in Northern Ireland

David Mullins, Jenny Muir, Nick Acheson

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review


    This study was commissioned by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) to build on existing work on third sector partnerships undertaken by the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC) (Rees at al 2012 a and b). The main focus of this work was on partnership structures, drivers and barriers, processes impacts and learning from partnership working.Work on Northern Ireland housing partnerships was undertaken by the University of Ulster and Queen’s University Belfast in partnership with TSRC. This focused on case studies of social housing Procurement Groups (PGs) and Supporting People (SP) Partnerships. The former included case studies of two of the three PGs between 2011 and 2012, while the latter focused on two community based schemes with mental health and homeless service users. These are examples of ‘mandated partnerships’ linked to public procurement and commissioning processes with several layers of regulation. As such these provide examples of the construction of “auditable organisations’ where effectiveness is influenced by relationships external to the partnerships. The report therefore places particular emphasis on procurement, commissioning and regulation to understand the drivers of these partnerships and to a large extent their structure, operation and effectiveness.The report uses the term hybridity to describe organisations that have a mixture of state, market and private sector characteristics; partly as a result of their origins and mission and partly in response to external drivers. State policy influences include the Concordat between the Voluntary and Community Sector and the Northern Ireland Government, (Department for Social Development (DSDNI) 2011) as well as procurement and regulatory drivers outlined above. Market influences include commercial and business plan drivers that affect the relationship between housing associations (HAs) and support providers in SP partnerships. Third Sector influences involve civil society roots and independence from the state and may also include legitimacy and trust, professionalism and the key advantage for HAs of their borrowing being treated as non-government for the purpose of public accounts.The unifying feature of the two case studies is that they concern voluntary and community sector organisations delivering public services. Taken together the two programmes considered here (the Social Housing Development Programme and the SP Programme) account for around half of total Government funding to the Voluntary and Community sector in NI. Moreover, these are both fields in which voluntary and community providers have a long-standing dominance for several reasons. In one case because of substitution for NIHE as developers of new social housing to exploit the borrowing advantages of HAs, in the other because of the comparative advantage of the voluntary and community sector in social care, building on community roots, legitimacy and professionalism.While delivery of services by voluntary and community sector organisations has a number of advantages as set out above, there are also perceived disadvantages from the perspective of public procurement. Independence is seen as reducing scope for public control, their limited scale and resources as reducing ability to bear risk and enable scale economies and on occasions a perceived lack of professionalism. A mirror image set of disadvantages arise from the perspective of voluntary and community organisations themselves including potential loss of independence and sacrifice of mission for mandate. The Concordat referred to above was an attempt to balance these positions, but is generally less influential than procurement and commissioning in establishing relationships between Government and voluntary and community providers of public services.
    Original languageEnglish
    PublisherUnknown Publisher
    Number of pages65
    Publication statusPublished - 5 Aug 2013


    Dive into the research topics of 'Third Sector Housing Partnerships in Northern Ireland'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this