#NeverMoreNeeded: Somerset Voluntary and Community Sector rises to challenge during pandemic

During national Small Charities Week, a new report highlights the vital community support provided by the local voluntary sector in Somerset.

The Somerset VCSE State of the Sector report for 2020 is the second report of this nature commissioned through the Somerset VCSE Strategic Forum and builds on the work of the 2016 State of the Sector report.

In March, we sent the survey to charities, community groups and social enterprises across the County. The findings have informed this second in-depth review of the state of the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector in Somerset.

What was not anticipated at the time of this project being undertaken was the impact of COVID-19 on communities globally. This has brought new challenges to the sector as well as opportunities, and two smaller follow-up surveys were conducted mid-March 2020 and April-June 2020 to help better understand the impact locally. The results of all three studies have been included in this latest report, produced by Spark Somerset.

Some key findings:

  • There are 2760 registered charities in Somerset and 100s more informal community groups
  • 87% of the ‘workforce’ are volunteers*
  • Key challenges organisations currently facing include loss of funding/income; loss of face-to-face/group working; adapting to digital working; retaining and training workforce; shielding customers/clients, future uncertainty and developing new services for COVID-19 circumstances
  • Of the groups that responded, 10,334 volunteers contribute 19,463 work hours in an average week.

Katherine Nolan, CEO of Spark Somerset said:

“As before, our sector continues to provide valuable services, activities and volunteering opportunities across the county and is characterised by the optimism, enthusiasm and dedication of its workforce. But it is also under pressure – balancing reducing resources with growing needs for their services – and now in more challenging circumstances than ever.
“We’d like to extend a huge thank you to the whole sector at this time – organisations large and small, registered charities and informal groups. The fantastic support that these organisations provide has never been needed more.”

Over the coming weeks, we will be sharing themed highlights of the report.

You can download the full report here.

New Grants Feed Grass-roots Action

Somerset’s County Councillors will have £2,000 each to fund community projects that improve lives under a new scheme launched this month.

The Improving Lives Grants Scheme has been created to kick-start and support voluntary and grass-roots initiatives that bring people together and help communities stay connected and thrive.

Whether it’s a project to reduce isolation, give parenting support, prevent falls or enhance emotional health and wellbeing – each of Somerset’s 55 county councillors can award up to four grants using their £2,000.

The £110,000 of investment is coming from the authority’s £1m Prevention Fund, set up to finance Council work and community projects that prevent issues, problems and needs developing or escalating. The aim is to improve lives while reducing future demand on the Council’s services – helping the authority remain sustainable in the long-term.

Grants can be used to ‘lever in’ funding from other sources but cannot be used to pay salaries. They can only be awarded to groups or organisations, not individuals. Any individual who has an idea for a potential project should contact their local County Councillor.

Councillor David Fothergill, Leader of Somerset County Council, said: “One of the most important things we can do to strengthen our communities is support locally-led projects built around bringing people together.

“Our elected members understand their communities and these grants will give them some financial muscle to make a real impact.

“We’re not being too prescriptive, but the initiatives put forward should be ones that engage their communities and improve people’s lives. Schemes that support vulnerable, less-advantaged or traditionally isolated groups will be especially welcome”.

Councillors can make applications to the Improving Lives Grants Scheme from 1 September up until 30 November. Applications will be assessed to ensure that they meet the criteria before funding is agreed.

Applications are encouraged from community groups promoting and providing opportunities for people to be socially connected, more physically active, eat well, enjoy the outdoors, be more independent and better informed about health and wellbeing.

It is expected that the majority of grants will go to Parish Councils and voluntary sector organisations; established bodies that can make a big impact at local-level.

Applications can only be made by elected County Councillors and have to benefit their own division.

Click here to find out who the elected Somerset County Councillor is for a particular area and their contact details to discuss your interest in the fund. 

For further guidance click here.

Funding for Adults with Learning Disabilities and Autism

It is estimated that there are over 2,000 adults living in Somerset with moderate to severe learning disabilities, and this number is growing. Around half also have autism [Source: Somerset Intelligence, 2014]. However, with the right support, adults with learning disabilities can live a full life in their community. This often involves making spaces and services more accessible, but it also involves putting adults with learning disabilities first, so they can make their own choices, challenge decisions, and get what they need and have a right to.

The Discovery Community Fund aims to help achieve this and more by supporting improvements to the health and independence of adults with learning disabilities and autism right across the county of Somerset.

Applications to the Discovery Community Fund should be made to Somerset Community Foundation, which is managing the distribution of up to £200,000 of funding.

The fund is the result of a ground-breaking partnership between Somerset County Council and local learning disability support provider Discovery. Their Managing Director, Luke Joy-Smith, goes on to say: “Perhaps with funding you could train healthcare professionals in how to make reasonable adjustments. Perhaps a lump sum could provide Changing Places bathroom facilities in your shop, café or community venue. Perhaps funding could help you launch a community taxi social enterprise. Perhaps hoists or sensory spaces would make your disability friendly holiday accommodation truly inclusive. Perhaps with funding, you could develop a network of Safer Places in towns across Somerset.

“If you have a vision that will improve the health and independence of people with learning disabilities and autism in Somerset, Discovery, Somerset County Council and Somerset Community Foundation want to hear from you.”

Director of Adult Social Services at Somerset County Council, Stephen Chandler, added: “This fund is part of the original vision for re-imagining learning disability provision in Somerset. Launching it with Discovery today is the result of a great deal of hard work and it’s very pleasing to reach this milestone.”

The first window for applications lasts from Wednesday 9 January to Friday 22 February. To find out more, visit: www.somersetcf.org.uk/discovery or call Somerset Community Foundation on: 01749 344949.

West Somerset Essential Life Skills Funding

The Essential Life Skills programme is funded by the Department for Education as part of its support for the West Somerset Opportunity Area.

The programme aims to enable young people to improve their confidence, knowledge and skills through participation in extra-curricular activity programmes.

Grants are available to groups and individual young people in the West Somerset District Council area to develop and expand youth provision and enable young people to access positive activities. Group organisations like youth providers, schools and voluntary organisations, can apply for grant funding of up to £5,000 to either develop new activities, or expand their existing provision.

Further information can be found here.



New VCSE Safeguarding Funding Programme Launched

DCMS and the Big Lottery Fund have today launched a joint funded programme investing £1.14m until 2022, as part of the wider Government strategy to improve safeguarding practice across the voluntary sector in England.

This funding will be used to develop training, support and advice for the sector and will be delivered in two phases:

Phase 1: Safeguarding resources for England, launched 10th December for Expressions of Interest, closing on 14th January with projects commencing by the end of March 2019.
This is up to a maximum of £570,000 worth of funding for an organisation or partnership of organisations with the track record and knowledge to develop high quality resources which will be freely available to the voluntary sector to improve safeguarding practice.

Phase 2: Safeguarding training and development to be launched in spring/summer 2019.
Funding to a small number of organisations or partnerships to share the resources developed during Phase 1 and support grassroots charities and community organisations to improve their safeguarding practice.

If you are looking to submit a bid, please email communities@somerset.gov.uk.

Funding Available for Taunton Groups

The Larkfleet Homes Community Fund supports charitable projects that help to enhance and develop the local community, and benefit Larkfleet residents and other local people.

Applications are now open, and constituted groups delivering charitable projects which will benefit communities within a 10 mile radius of the Larkfleet Rise development in Taunton, are invited to apply.

Find out more here.

New Dementia Community Grants Programme

Somerset County Council is changing the way it provides day time activities for people with memory loss or dementia. They have announced a community grants programme, which is now open for applications. The initiative is aimed at supporting the development of services for people in Somerset with memory loss or dementia, over the next five years.

Grants will usually be for £250 to £10,000 per year.

The grants will:

  • Directly benefit residents of Somerset and grass roots community groups and organisations.
  • Support an increase in people with memory problems or dementia using community groups and services, even when their condition worsens and extra support is required.
  • Fund activities and services that support both Somerset County Council’s Adult Social Care clients who use Direct Payments to pay for their support, and people who pay for themselves.
  • Fund projects that become self-sufficient and sustainable

For further information please view Dementia Community Grant Outline and Dementia Community Grant EOI template

If you wish to have an informal conversation about this grant and what it can fund, please email the Adult and Health Commissioning Team at commissioningteammailbox@somerset.gov.uk , and a member of the team will call you back.

Somerset Diverse Communities Small Grants Scheme

Somerset Diverse Communities is a project that aims to celebrate the diversity in Somerset. It hopes to support and build relationships with groups and organisations who are supporting or working with black and minority ethnic (BME) communities in Somerset.

Through it’s Small Grants Scheme, funding of up to £300 is available to community groups, charities, organisations and agencies which support or directly work with BME communities in Taunton Deane, Mendip, Sedgemoor and West Somerset. Groups do not need to be formal or registered to apply.

Funding must be used for non-profit making purposes which benefit BME communities in Somerset. You could use the money to run a community event, fund running costs, hold a training session to build skills, buy materials for community activities, or promote the work of your group. Due to the nature of this small grants scheme, preference will be given to small projects where the funding can make a big difference.

Somerset Diverse Communities is especially interested in supporting applications which build community cohesion and/or empower people to develop skills and feel confident in the wider community. They aim to be flexible in regards to what they will fund, so if you have a good idea, please Somerset Diverse Communities Community Engagement Worker, Beccy Jesson, at beccy@somersetrcc.org.uk.

The closing date for applications is Friday 19th October 2018.

Further information.

Application Form.

Celebrating involvement in healthcare community grants 2018 – apply now!

NHS England are on the lookout for VCSE groups that have done some amazing patient, service-user or carer involvement work that’s improved healthcare services.

They will be awarding grants of up to £2,500 to a number of projects that showcase good practice around patient and citizen involvement in healthcare.

The  grants will be awarded to organisations that can tell the story of their patient and citizen involvement project. Using the funding, they will share what worked, how they involved patients and citizens and what impact involvement had on services. Organisations should be able to tell their story in a creative, appealing and accessible way which can include producing films, photo or audio books, leaflets and posters, graphics or comics.

NHS England knows that patient groups, VSCE organisations and a diverse range of community groups all over England are involved in shaping and improving healthcare services. It wants to encourage the promotion of learning and sharing of good practice by making funds available to groups to highlight and share their work with others.

The grants can only be awarded to a voluntary organisation. Please ensure you read the community grants guidelines document before you apply, to check that your organisation and project is eligible. If you are eligible, you will need to complete the application form by Thursday 20 September.

Funding available for projects suppporting people affected by domestic abuse

Taunton Women’s Aid is inviting applications for grant funding of up to £10,000 from charities and community groups with projects that support people affected by domestic abuse.

They will favour proposals which will have the biggest impact with the relatively small amounts of money available, and will fund the following types of projects:

  • Setting up and running a support group – e.g. room hire, the services of a facilitator, or child care costs to enable women to attend the group
  • Running a course – e.g. pattern changing: funding the cost of room hire and the cost of a course-provider
  • Specialist materials and resources – e.g. Women’s Aid resources for work with children and young people
  • Training costs – the cost of sending a member of staff on an accredited training course so they can support people who have experienced or been exposed to domestic abuse
  • Schools work – working with young people and teachers to provide support
  • A confidence-building trip or outing for young people or for parents and children

Priority is given to applications from organisations or projects which will benefit people living in Taunton Deane, and then to applications from other districts in Somerset.

Click here for further details.