Discourses of Voluntary Action at two 'Transformational Moments' of the Welfare State, the 1940s and 2010s

Lead Research Organisation: Northumbria University
Department Name: Fac of Arts, Design and Social Sciences

Abstract

The publication of the Beveridge Report in 1942, and the subsequent establishment of comprehensive welfare services in the UK, was referred to as 'a revolutionary moment'. The same term has been used to describe the current context in which welfare services are being dismantled in England. At these two transformational moments, fundamental questions have been raised about the respective roles and responsibilities of the state and the voluntary and community sector (VCS) in welfare services provision. During the 1st revolutionary moment (1940s) the Beveridge report proposed a series of measures to address the 'evils' of the time. The subsequent restructuring of welfare provision led to significant changes in the structure and focus of many VCS organisations, and a period of intense debate about the nature and extent of the voluntary action. In our current 'revolutionary moment' as a result of major national and international events the role of the VCS as a welfare service provider has intensified despite severe cuts to funding. A fundamental renegotiation of the role of the state is underway; we are entering a period of intense debate about the nature and extent of voluntary action and its relationship to the state and welfare provision.

The overarching aim is to explore the debates that have taken place on the role of voluntary action in the provision of welfare in the 1940s and 2010s in England. It will compare and contrast popular, political and VCS discourses. In order to meet this aim, we address 3 sets of questions: 1.What are the similarities and differences in narratives about the role, position and contribution of the VCS in the provision of social welfare in the 1940s compared with the 2010s? And, drawing on social origins theory, what combination of factors, including but not restricted to the balance of class forces, can help account for shifting narratives between the 1940s and 2010s? 2.What are the similarities and differences within and between the narratives of voluntary sector representatives, government officials, and the general public about the role, position and contribution of the voluntary and community sector in social welfare provision, firstly during the 1940s and secondly through the 2010s? And, drawing on the theory of strategic action fields, to what extent and how do different narratives reflect field shaping discursive interventions and a changing configuration of actors? 3.What evidence is there of how different narratives have been constructed, articulated, contested, and circulated? And, drawing on discursive institutionalism, how are different narratives related to each other in the struggle for 'room' and 'common sense' during periods of unsettlement and transition, as actors seek to frame action and construct the possibilities for change?

Our approach to addressing these questions is to explore: 1.Public narratives: analysis of Mass Observation directives on voluntary action and social welfare from 1940s 2010s, plus one commissioned in 2017. 2.State narratives: analysis of key government policy documents (e.g. green and white papers, acts of parliament), speeches and parliamentary debates relating to the role of the voluntary sector in welfare service provision in England generated during the 1940s and 2010s (accessed from The National Archives, Historic Hansard, Hansard and various websites). 3. Voluntary sector narratives: focusing on 4 VCS organisations (NCVO, Children England, NCVYS, Age UK) review key statements, policy documents, and publications produced by them in the 1940s and 2010s, stored in their archives and websites.

This 2 year study co-produced with NCVO, NCVYS, Children England, Age UK and Mass Observation; guided by a project Steering Group; and involving various knowledge exchange activities will contribute to the development of VCS policy and practice, through building capabilities, enhancing the existing evidence base and reframing debat

Planned Impact

Alongside the academic beneficiaries, the project will impact upon three stakeholder groups: voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations; policy makers; and the general public. The knowledge generated has the potential to deliver instrumental and conceptual impact through influencing the development of VCS policy and practice and contributing to a new understanding of the evolving relationship between the VCS and the state. In doing so, it will contribute to ESRC's strategic priority of a 'vibrant and fair society'.

The study has and will continue to be co-designed and co-delivered with key partners from the VCS, specifically: the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO); Children England; National Council for Voluntary Youth Organisations (NCVYS); and Age UK (see case for support for additional information). Ongoing co-production will be achieved through several mechanisms, including a project Steering Group which will bring together our four partner VCS organisations with Mass Observation, an archivist, and three external academic experts (see Pathways to Impact for details). The Group will meet regularly to help oversee the general course of the project and to offer advice and guidance on all aspects.

The project will have conceptual and instrumental impacts on VCS organisations. VCS organisations are looking back at their past, seeking to draw parallels with and lessons from earlier periods of intense challenge and change. This project will seek to build capacity (resources, knowledge, skills) within VCS organisations to help them navigate their way through these difficult times. It will also seek to reframe the debate regarding the changing relationship between the sector and the state. We will work most intensely with our four VCS project partners to build organisational capabilities for influencing policy and practice via three interactive workshops. Their capacity to maximise the use of their archives will be enhanced as we advise on archiving practices. Wider (medium term) instrumental and conceptual impact across the voluntary sector will be achieved through: working with our project partners to engage with their extensive membership base (totalling approximately 12,000 VCS organisations and networks); delivering workshops on sustainable archiving practices; an end-of-project conference within multiple workshop streams, co-hosted with project partners; open access to a series of working and briefing papers produced throughout the life of the project; and extensive media and social media activities (e.g. webpages, Twitter, blogs, newsletters, press releases).

The project also aspires to create conceptual impact on VCS policy through influencing policy makers both within government and within the sector. We will encourage considered reflection about the role of the VCS and its relation to the state, through a number of activities including: working with Caroline Kenny of the Social Sciences section of POST to build Parliamentary awareness of the project; working with the History and Policy network to host a Westminster briefing event; working with Gateshead Council to host a workshop for seven North East local authorities; and co-convening a seminar with WISERD, Wales for policy makers and civil society organisations from across the UK jurisdictions.

A longer term aspiration is to have a conceptual impact on the general public through broadening understandings about the changing relationship between the VCS and the state, via: a specially curated exhibition which will draw on the archives of our 4 project partners; a workshop for older people in the North East (Gateshead); and a high-profile public lecture at the British Library.

We will assess our impact both qualitatively (through collecting feedback from project partners and through feedback forms at project events) and quantitatively (through monitoring distribution of project outputs through tools such as google analytics).

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Our project is underpinned by the principles of the co-production of knowledge. Co-production began at bid writing stage, with input sought from Age UK, NCVO, Children England, and Mass Observation. A fifth partner, UK Youth was recruited in 2016. Each partner has a representative on the Steering Group which includes representatives from academia and practice, including from Age UK, CASS Business School, Children England, Mass Observation, NCVO, UK Youth, University of Kent, WISERD, Civil Society, Cardiff University. The Steering Group is chaired by Professor Marilyn Taylor. We are about to hold workshops to begin to verify emerging findings. We see this as our key pathway to achieving impact on the mixed economy of welfare, especially understanding the Voluntary and Community Sector.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Age UK 
Organisation Age UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution A memorandum of understanding underpins our collaboration. The project is underpinned by the principles of co-production. Nominated members of the team work closely with each partner.
Collaborator Contribution Our collaboration began at bid writing stage. We knew and were known by Age UK. These conversations were lengthy but were essential for us to present detailed fieldwork plans in the application form. Our proposal depended on having access to their archives and interactive engagements with our partners during the research process. The archives we wished to examine were not in the public domain. Our collaboration is articulated through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which built on the information in the letter of support submitted with the project proposal to ESRC. The MoU specifies the nature of the support the organisation would give to the project, (access to archives, participation of Steering Group etc) statements on ethics, outputs, archiving and knowledge exchange. The document was signed off by the partner organisation and the research team. We worked closely with Age UK Gateshead when preparing for the November 27th 2018 older people's event. Members of their friendship groups attended
Impact We adopted an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach drawing on knowledge and expertise from social policy, sociology, human geography and social history. The collaboration is extant, and outcomes are ongoing and will be reported in future submissions
Start Year 2015
 
Description Gateshead Council 
Organisation Gateshead Council
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The collaboration is informal, and nominated members of the team work closely with each partner
Collaborator Contribution Our collaboration began at bid writing stage. We knew and were known by the Council before, Irene Hardill has collaborated with them on previous ESRC investments. The Council provided a letter of support with the project proposal. Their support includes co-organising two knowledge exchange events. The first interactive event was held November 27th 2018 and was to engage with older Gateshead residents to share some emerging findings from the project. Members of the Older People's Assembly attended
Impact We adopted an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach drawing on knowledge and expertise from social policy, sociology, human geography and social history. The collaboration is extant, and outcomes are ongoing and will be reported in future submissions
Start Year 2015
 
Description Mass Observation 
Organisation Mass Observation Archive
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Our collaboration began a bid writing stage. We knew and were known by MO, indeed Rose Lindsey had collaborated with MO in previous ESRC investments. In our proposal we specified the MO files we would be using, and sought funding for a new Directive.
Collaborator Contribution Our collaboration with MO is articulated through Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which built on the information in the letters of support submitted with the project proposal to ESRC. The MoU specifies the nature of the support the organisation would give to the project, (access to MO archives, participation of Steering Group, scoping New Directive etc) statements on ethics, outputs, archiving and knowledge exchange. The MoU was signed by the partner organisation and the research team. The Spring 2018 Directive 'Welfare, the State and Voluntary and Charitable Organisations' was issued to the MO Volunteer Writers and over 120 responses have been received.As part of the project we co-organised an event at MO, the Keep, Brighton 17th September 2018 for people interested in the records of voluntary organisations. The event provided information, advice and guidance on caring for records
Impact We adopted an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach drawing on knowledge and expertise from social policy, sociology, human geography and social history. The collaboration is extant, and outcomes are ongoing and will be reported in future submissions
Start Year 2015
 
Description NCVO 
Organisation National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution A memorandum of understanding underpins our collaboration. The project is underpinned by the principles of co-production. Nominated members of the team work closely with each partner.
Collaborator Contribution Our collaboration began at bid writing stage. We knew and were known by NCVO and NCVO convened our bid writing meetings. These conversations were lengthy but were essential for us to present detailed fieldwork plans in the application form. Our proposal depended on having access to their archives and interactive engagements with our partners during the research process. The archives we wished to examine were not in the public domain. Our collaboration is articulated through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which built on the information in the letter of support submitted with the project proposal to ESRC. The MoU specifies the nature of the support the organisation would give to the project, (access to archives, participation of Steering Group etc) statements on ethics, outputs, archiving and knowledge exchange. The document was signed off by the partner organisation and the research team.
Impact We adopted an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach drawing on knowledge and expertise from social policy, sociology, human geography and social history. The collaboration is extant, and outcomes are ongoing and will be reported in future submissions. Our work adds additional insights on the history of NCVO using a slightly different lens from that of Dr Justin Davis-Smith, Cass Business School who has been commissioned to research and write the History of NCVO.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Discourses of Voluntary Action Steering Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact The Discourses of Voluntary Action Steering Group brings together our project partners and wider stakeholders to work with us on the study design and delivery. The Steering Group has been a key mechanism for enabling the co-production of the research. It is helping to enhance the quality of the research and to ensure its impact is maximised; with indepth discussions stimulated about the nature of the emerging findings and their implications. Beyond the direct outcomes associated with and for the study, the Group has also been a useful forum for networking amongst participants.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018,2019
 
Description Older People's Workshop, Gateshead 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The purpose of the one-day interactive event was to engage older people to share some emerging findings from the project. In addition to Georgina Brewis and Irene Hardill speakers included Ian Stevenson of Gateshead Council, Ken Bell, Age UK Gateshead and Craig Bankhead, CEO Gateshead Older People's Assembly. Participants were members of the Older People's Assembly, those who ate regularly in Bewick's café or attended a Friendship Group run by Age UK Gateshead. A total of 29 attended and all the participants completed feedback forms, and 28 shared their views on charity (and gave permission for their views to be used by completing the informed consent form). Feedback forms enquired about actions, and comments included a recurring theme of continuing to volunteer, pressure my MP, be more sensitive to the needs of others, and to think about things
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Records of charities and voluntary organisations: How to care for, or deposit, your archives and records 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Purpose: Mass Observation is a project partner and as part of this project, an event took place at The Keep on Monday 17th September 2018 for people with an interest in the records of voluntary organisations, particularly staff, trustees or volunteers with responsibility for the organisational records and archives. The one-day interactive event was to provide information, advice and guidance on caring for records through talks and practical workshops. In addition to Kirsty Pattrick (Mass Observation Archive), and Rose Lindsey (ESRC Discourses of Voluntary Action project) speakers included Christopher Whittick (County Archivist for East Sussex) and Andrew Bennett (Brighton & Hove Archivist). Outcomes: the event was attended by 40 people and this included those from outside of East Sussex, including from Cardiff, Lincoln and Essex. A Survey Monkey was sent to all participants and 11 responses were received (27%). Most respondents found it useful, offering practical tips on records management, on funding, how to set up a charity archive.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description The Conversation: An end to 'want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness': why the Beveridge report flew off the shelves in 1942 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact To coincide with the 75th anniversary of the publication of the Beveridge Report we were commissioned by the Conversation, an open access online news service funded by about 150 universities (worldwide). We worked with editorial staff at the Conversation to produce a short reflective essay, which focused on the reaction of the general public to the publication of the Beveridge Report. Our essay used material from the Mass Observation archive and we are pleased to report that it has generated some debate
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://theconversation.com/an-end-to-want-disease-ignorance-squalor-and-idleness-why-the-beveridge-r...
 
Description Understanding voluntary action through 80 Years of Mass Observation data 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact The talk examined mass observation data asking what differences and similarities can we identify in public views relating to the provision of social welfare services by the state and the voluntary sector? It drew on material from writing and street surveys undertaken in the 1940s at the start of the welfare state, and compared this with public views articulated on The Big Society in 2012 and work undertaken by the Continuity and Change in Volunteering Project. It compared these with later views on welfare provision in 2018. It was part of a panel of papers, presented for the Discourses of Voluntary Action project, which examined public, state and voluntary sector narratives at these different time points. There was some lively discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018