Graphical version

London Metropolitan Archives



Reference code(s): GB 0074 LMA/4016

Held at: London Metropolitan Archives


Date(s): 1923-1994

Level of description: Collection

Extent: 28.9 linear metres

Name of creator(s): National Council of Voluntary Organisations x National Council of Social Service


Administrative/Biographical history:

The National Council of Voluntary Organisations (formerly the National Council of Social Service) grew out of the beliefs that the best way to preserve voluntary services would be if the diverse agencies came together in an overall council to eliminate confusion and overlap; and that they should work together with the newly developing statutory services. The first step in setting up the National Council was the issue in March 1919 of a memorandum from the Local Government Board with a covering letter signed by Sir Aubrey Simmons, then secretary of the Board and first chairman of the council. The memorandum recommended the formation of local councils of social service and set out the aims of a future National Council of Social Service, together with the names of members and bodies giving their support.

In 1919 the councils objectives were:
* to promote the systematic organisation of voluntary social work, nationally and locally.
* to assist in the formation in each local government area representations of both voluntary effort and statutory administration.
* to provide information for voluntary social workers.

Captain Lionel Ellis was the only paid officer in 1919, and Professor WGS Adams took over from Aubrey Simmons as Chairman for the next 30 years. By 1924 the NCSS was soundly established and on 14 May 1928 was awarded charitable status in the High Court. In this same year the NCSS moved to its first headquarters at 26 Bedford Square, London WC1. The work of the NCSS between the wars was beset by problems, most notably the economic welfare of the countryside, rural depopulation, housing and the increasing problem of unemployment. Its answer was to establish and support the rural movement by means of Community Councils, citizens advise bureaux, support to the elderly and disabled and to provide secretariat for branches of groups such as the National Playing Fields Association.

1969 was the Golden Jubilee of the NCSS celebrated in Guildhall with a reception attended by HM the Queen, HRH the Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh and over 900 guests. The 50th year marked a new look and reorganisation for the NCSS by the review committee concluding that the NCSS 'should be seen as one living, vigorous entity and not a federation of varied and autonomous associated bodies'. One of the most important roles of the NCSS in the 1970s was that of an information and advice resource. Their role in the rural communities by the provision of advice on all matters and their efforts continued both nationally and internationally.

On 1st April 1980 the NCSS became the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. An extraordinary general meeting called in July 1973 discussed the name change; since the implementation of the Social Services Act in 1970 confusion had arisen between voluntary and statutory bodies. Its new aims as set down in the 1980 Annual Report were:
* to extend the involvement of voluntary organisations in responding to social issues
* to be a resource centre for voluntary organisations
* to protect the interests and independence of voluntary organisation.

One of its key roles was to make skills, guidance and advice available to all charities and voluntary organisations as well as developing new models of social support. NCVO increased its membership by 150 in 3 years with a striking number of new members providing aid for illness or disability and furthermore opened membership to leading organisations in relevant fields of activity. In the early 1980s these were 528 members, links with 159 councils for voluntary service and 38 rural community councils. It had 8 major departments and employed 152 staff.

In the early 1990s the NCVO established a working party to make recommendations on developing and maintaining high standards of efficiency and effectiveness within the voluntary sector. The report "Effectiveness and the Voluntary Sector" set out an agenda for action by NCVO and the wider voluntary sector - with emphasis on effectiveness in management and services within voluntary bodies. The Corporate Affiliation Scheme was launched in 1989 attracting 20 leading companies and in 1992 NCVO played a large role in the Charities Act 1992 by making representations to improve the Bill and by guiding Charities through the new law.

In June 1992 the NCVO moved from Bedford Square to Regent's Wharf, London W1 where they remain today, continuing its role as the "voice of the voluntary sector".


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), formerly the National Council of Social Service, (NCSS). This is a large archive and one of great interest to those studying both charities and their development and the changing attitudes and ideas of voluntary aid from the early 20th century.

Internal Services records consist of the main series of minutes of NCSS/NCVO committees, Interdepartmental groups, Members' groups and Associated Bodies, regional and central organisation and the histories of various NCSS/NCVO departments. There are also short series of financial material, legal material and documentation from the Advice Unit and Rural Department of the NCVO.

The Membership Division records cover policy and the Research Department while the Public Affairs Division contains the National/International and Overseas Departments, the Press and Parliamentary sections including the Information Department and one of the largest series, that of publications.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

The records have been sorted into the following groups:
Internal Services LMA/4016/IS;
Membership LMA/4016/M;
Public Affairs LMA/4016/PA.

Conditions governing access:

The records are open and available for consultation.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright rests with the National Council of Voluntary Organisations.

Physical characteristics:


Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The records of the NCVO were transferred to the London Metropolitan Archives in 1996.


Related material:

Other relevant records which may be of interest are the London Council of Social Service 1919-1982 (ref. ACC/1888) and the Hampstead Council of Social Worker which can be found among the records of the Family Welfare Association (ref. A/FWA).

The NCVO has a reference library of books on all aspects of voluntary sector issues which may be seen by appointment with Christopher Short, Information Officer NCVO, 8 All Saints Street, Regents Wharf, London N1.

DESCRIPTION NOTES Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: June to August 2010.

Charities | Charitable organisations | Associations | Organizations
Consultancies | Organizations
Nongovernmental organizations | International organizations | International politics
Professional associations | Associations | Organizations
Voluntary work | Labour
Voluntary organizations x Nongovernmental organizations
Nonprofit organizations
Social problems

Personal names

Corporate names
National Council of Voluntary Organisations x National Council of Social Service

England | UK | Western Europe | Europe