Our research focuses on five voluntary organisations which are all in some form ‘umbrella’ bodies, selected to represent different policy fields within the voluntary and community sector in England, the sector itself, children, youth and older people.

Age UK is the UK’s largest charity dedicated to helping everyone make the most of later life. It was created in 2009 following a merger between Age Concern and Help the Aged. Its work dates back to 1940 when the Old People’s Welfare Committee (OPWC) was formed as a forum for discussion between government and voluntary organisations and was supported by the National Council for Social Service. This committee changed its name to the National Old People’s Welfare Committee (NOPWC), and took on responsibility for coordinating the activities of numerous local groups. In 1971 it became Age Concern. Help the Aged was founded by Cecil Jackson Cole in 1961 to raise money for relief and development projects for older people overseas, gradually taking on projects with older people in the UK. Today the network includes Age Cymru, Age NI, Age Scotland, and some 160 local Age UKs throughout England and Age International.

UK Youth is a leading national charity, committed to providing access to appropriate, high quality services in every community so that young people are empowered to build bright futures, regardless of their background or circumstances. It was founded in 1911 as the National Council of Girls Clubs. It merged in 2018 with Ambition, one of the project’s original partners. Ambition was founded in 1925 as the National Association of Boys’ Clubs (NABC). This new national association strengthened the work of a growing network of local boys’ clubs, which provided recreation and informal education to working boys who left school at 14.

Children England is the leading children’s specialist membership body for voluntary and community sector organisations in England. It was originally formed as the Constituent Societies of the National Council of Associated Children’s Homes in 1942, when seven of the main voluntary child care organisations (including what we now know as Barnardo’s and the Children’s Society) came together as debates about the future of the welfare and care of children were underway. It was later known as the National Council of Voluntary Child Care Organisations (NCVCCO) and became Children England in 2009. It operates as a membership body for voluntary organisations working with children, young people and families.

National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) champions the voluntary sector and volunteering because they’re essential for a better society. It was founded in 1919 as the National Council for Social Service to help coordinate the work of voluntary organisations and develop relationships with government. Since 1919 it has worked alongside and supported VCOs to deliver services, and to adapt and thrive in response to changes in the context for their work. NCVO currently has 12,500 members, predominantly made up of voluntary sector organisations.

National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS) was founded in 1936 as the Standing Conference of Juvenile Organisations (SCJO) at a meeting of representatives of eleven of the largest voluntary youth organisations. In its early years it was strongly supported by the National Council of Social Service. The group sought to promote mutual co-operation and coordination and to call for a greater role of government in the support and delivery of youth services. It adopted the name NCYVS in 1972. Sadly NCYVS closed down on 1 April 2016 and its work was taken over by both Ambition and UK Youth. The closure of NCVYS does not affect our research with its archive, which covers the period 1936-2016 and has been deposited at UCL Institute of Education’s Archives.