Policies that address the role and function of voluntary organisations horizontally across different government fields have been a feature of reforms in several welfare states to varying degrees since the end of the 1990s. This paper argues that the UK compact and its associated implementation
measures have constituted a discourse that has enabled the state to radically reconstitute the role of the voluntary sector while holding out an unfulfilled promise of a broader shared understanding of the sector’s role in society. Drawing on an analysis of policy development in Northern Ireland,
the paper shows how well developed horizontal policy structures have served to redefine and narrow the field of engagement between the sector and government.
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