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Delivering public services

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Find out what delivering public services means and if you can get funding from public sector organisations.

Public sector organisations commission, plan, fund and support public services. Some charities and organisations run projects and activities that make up those services. Public sector organisations include central government or local government, the NHS, the Police. They can include housing organisations or the prison service.

Here are some examples of activities that are often included in public services.

  • Social care
  • Youth services
  • Drug and alcohol services
  • Health and wellbeing services
  • Education and training services, especially for disadvantaged groups
  • Services to support survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence
  • Advice and guidance services - such as housing and benefits support
  • Advocacy services - such as how to complain about treatment by the NHS
  • Prevention of re-offending services

If you deliver any of these kinds of services you can look for public funding for your work.


Most of the public sector organisations use a process called commissioning. This is how they plan what services they need and how they’re going to give out the funding needed. It considers what projects and activities will make up those services. Groups and organisations can influence this process by providing information. They can speak on behalf of people that they help.

  • Most commissioning happens at a local level. Get in touch with the local infrastructure and support organisations in your area. Our local support page will help you find them.
  • You can take part in the commissioning cycle. This can influence how the public bodies decide to spend their money. Find out how in our quick overview.

Funding is awarded as contracts or grants.


Most commissioning leads to contracts. Charities and social enterprises compete with other businesses to win those contracts. More than half of all charities get some of their income in contracts for public services. More and more small and medium sized organisations are getting funding in this way. Some organisations form groups who bid for contracts together (consortia). Some larger organisations sub-contract smaller ones to supply specialist services.

There is lots of terminology involved. You’ll hear phrases such as tenders, procurement, bidding. The exact process and how complicated it is depends on the amount of money available. But you don’t have to know all the details to get started

Each local area works in a different way. They have different timetables, different online platforms for applications and different reporting arrangements. They’ll often have forums or meetings to talk to organisations. Local government and the NHS are expected to support local groups and organisations. They should make it easier for you to get involved. We recommend making local connections as your first step.

  • Ask your local infrastructure organisation how to get started. Use our local support page to help you find them.
  • To get ready for contracts you will need to be confident at monitoring and evaluating your work. Use NCVO’s guidance to help prepare.
  • Jump straight to finding contracts that are open for bids, tenders or applications. Recommended for organisations with experience only. Use the government’s contract finder


Some commissioning processes give out money in grants instead of contracts. They have application processes just like other grants.

Direct payments

Organisations working in social care should make sure they understand direct payments. When someone needs carer support their local authority will assess their needs. The authority can provide the support or give the person direct payments. With direct payments the person can buy their own support.

Social prescribing

Social prescribing is a way for GPs and nurses to refer people with health issues to local services. The services are non-clinical. They could include the services you run.

The amount of social prescribing happening is different in different areas. It isn’t yet a quick and easy way to get activities funded across the country. It is growing in importance in health care. It’s useful to stay up to date with it if your projects and activities improve people's mental or physical health.

  • The best way for a small organisation to get involved is to find out what is happening near you. Use our local support page.
  • Want to learn more about social prescribing? Use the Social Prescribing Network resources on their website.

Last reviewed: 17 November 2020

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 17 November 2020

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