Magazine article Public Finance

Pension Prescriptions

Magazine article Public Finance

Pension Prescriptions

Article excerpt

AS DEBATE RACES o ve r the coalition's Big Society vision, it is easy to overlook the fact that public services have been carried out for years by a range of providers.

GPs, for example, provide frontline health care and are an integral part of the NHS - but they are private businesses. Elsewhere, charities and other non-governmentaJ organisations are involved in specialist nursing, hospice care and medical research that form part of the wider health network.

Similarly, Ln the local government sector, NGOs provide a diverse range of services, from housing and local economic development through to social care, education, leisure and the arts. Add to this mix the many services and functions that have been outsourced to the private sector, and what we have is a complex pattern of service provision.

In many cases, the formation, growth and continued existence of the organisations that have taken on these roles are heavily dependent on the ability and willingness of employees to move from the public sector to the non-governmental sector.

Over the years, public sector pension schemes have adapted so that the loss of pension provision does not become a barrier to movement. In the NHS, the secretary of state has the power to 'direct' that certain organisations or groups of employees within organisations outside the NHS can participate in the NHS Pension Scheme.

Today, some 400 'direction' employers and more than 8,200 GP practices are covered by the NHS scheme. These include organisations such as Central Surrey Health. Formed in 2006, this social enterprise is a limited company co-owned by employees who previously provided community nursing and therapy services from within the primary care trust.

Similar provisions exist in the Local Government Pension Scheme, where organisations that share 'a community of interest' with local government can be granted admission to the scheme. Across the UK, there are many thousands of these 'admitted' bodies.

However, a large part of the Big Society initiative focuses on finding innovative new ways of providing public services and enabling more provision by charities, social enterprises and private companies. It is therefore likely to involve new organisational forms. …

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