Voluntary action and third sector responses

About the research

Research by CCSE members examines a range of contemporary issues relating to voluntary action and activism, including opportunities and challenges associated with efforts to achieve social justice. A particular focus is research to assess the implications of government policies (such as austerity measures and the privatisation of welfare and criminal justice work) for voluntary organisations and the marginalised groups they work with. This research also asks critical questions about the relationship between the state, market and the third sector, including the emergence of a penal third sector.

About us

The Voluntary Action and Third Sector Responses Research Group is based within the Centre for the Study of Crime, Criminalisation and Social Exclusion. Recent work draws on social policy and voluntary sector studies to examine the implications of social policy for voluntary organisations and for marginalised groups.


Policy change and smaller voluntary organisations

A project by Lindsey Metcalf examines the experiences of volunteers serving as board members in smaller, local voluntary organisations. It assesses how policy developments (such as austerity and the outsourcing of public service delivery) affect voluntary board members and their organisations. Data collection was funded by the ESRC and Liverpool John Moores University.

A project by Lindsey Metcalf (LJMU) and Louise Hardwick (University of Liverpool) explores the impact of community-university collaborations organised through the charity Interchange.  It considers the knowledge needs of small voluntary organisations and explores the potential of participatory action research projects to support voluntary organisations in a context of austerity and policy change.  The work has received financial support from Interchange and the University of Liverpool.

Policy evaluation and needs analyses for vulnerable and excluded groups

This strand focuses upon applying collective expertise in research, data collection and social needs analysis to provide service intelligence to third sector and public organisations.  These organisations require accurate, transparent and robust data in order to make informed decisions, which will enable them to create more effective and bespoke interventions for their clients groups, which are typically made up of some of the most vulnerable and excluded members in the population.

A project funded by Age Concern Liverpool and led by Giles Barrett examined the needs and aspirations of people in the 50+ age group in a range of Neighbourhood Renewal Areas (NRAs) of Liverpool.  Globally, there is an ageing demographic trend in all industrialised nations.  These older populations are healthier, better educated and are living longer than in previous generations. These dramatic changes in the composition of the population provide new challenges for the provision of services, especially because the needs and aspirations of older people will be increasingly more heterogeneous and complex. The study aimed to provide insights into older people’s involvement in social and health activities and demonstrate the barriers they experience in taking up provision.  The impact of living in a deprived neighbourhood was also considered alongside an individual’s experience of exclusion due to their physical location. The research demonstrated many similarities in the experiences of older people living in other deprived neighbourhoods and highlighted the growing need for service provision to reflect the experience and needs of older people themselves. Results revealed gender differences in participation rates in social and health activities. The study also highlighted the influence of low self-confidence and participation in activities. Whilst the impact of perceived and real crime and ASB were spotlighted with the need for these issues to be tackled so older people could safely engage in local activities. A spin-off from these needs and aspirations study of older people is another project focusing on the efficacy of older people befriending and re-ablement services. The project asserts that independent living can mean lonely living, especially when mobility becomes poorer and that loneliness can be a very harmful and a major contributor to ill-health. Research conducted into the befriending scheme reveals that the initiative offers a host of positive interventions to reduce levels of social isolation and loneliness.

A project funded by The Royal British Legion (TRBL) and led by Giles Barrett involved an evidence-based national evaluation of TRBL Breaks Service (short holidays) and was the first of its kind for ‘The Legion’. These short holidays were targeted at a range of groups based on eligibility and need, which included receipt of means tested benefits, suffering from physical or mental trauma, living in isolation or recently bereaved. The executive summary highlights that the project encompassed research across the four Breaks Centres, engaged with 2500 participants and utilised thirteen different research methods over a 12-month period to capture the views of as many stakeholders as possible. Reaching thousands of beneficiaries, the Breaks Service was a cornerstone for ex-military recreation and a provider of support and wellbeing for the whole armed forces community (AFC). The research study adopted a critical realist evaluation framework to ascertain what was working, for whom and in what circumstances with dynamic policy exchanges with the project commissioners.


Barrett, G; Fletcher, M. G. & Patel, T. (2013) Black minority ethnic communities and levels of satisfaction with policing: Findings from a study in the north of England, Criminology and Criminal Justice, 14(2), 196-215

Barrett, G. & McGoldrick, C.  (2013) Narratives of inactive ageing in poor deprived areas of Liverpool, UK, International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 33 (5/6), 347-66

Barrett, G. & McGoldrick, M (2014) Report on the Evaluation of the Befriending and Re-ablement Service (BARS) in Sefton, Liverpool: Age Concern Liverpool and Sefton

Barrett, G; Marshall, D. & Murray, E (2018) Final Report on the National Evaluation of The Royal British Legion’s Breaks Service, London: The Royal British Legion

McGoldrick, C; Barrett, G. & Cook, I. (2015) Befriending and Re-ablement Service: A better alternative in an age of austerity, International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 37(1/2), 51-68&

PhD research projects

Jordan Griffiths (2019) The experience of social policy reform for voluntary advice organisations: A multi-site case study in Liverpool. (PhD supervised by Dr Peter Millward and Dr Lindsey Metcalf).

To find out more or contact the researchers within the Voluntary Action and Third Sector Responses Research Group explore the LJMU staff profiles below:

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