#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.

Conclusions of the Joint VCSE Review

The Joint VCSE Review was initiated in November 2014 by the Department of Health, Public Health England, and NHS England to describe the role of the VCSE sector in contributing to improving health, well-being and care outcomes; to identify and describe challenges and opportunities, and make recommendations for national government, local government and the NHS.

The conclusions of the review have now been published. The key message from the report is that a fundamental shift is needed is towards codesigning a new health and care system with the people who use it most, and those who miss out most often. Statutory organisations have not consistently shifted resources and power from their own bureaucracies towards citizens: effective community organisations are essential partners in this

You can read the full report here.

The Somerset Plan for Children, Young People and Families

This week, children and young people helped launch a document that will shape the way Somerset County Council and its partners support them over the next three years.

The voices of children and young people have been central to the creation of the Children and Young People’s plan for 2019-22 which outlines the challenges and dangers they face.

Supporting children and young people, keeping them safe and improving their lives, is one of the most important roles the Council and its partners in health and the police undertake.

The plan is there to help them achieve this and highlights issues such as exam stress, difficulties in education, lack of opportunities, bullying, abuse, exploitation, poverty and self-harm and family problems.

Children and young people from across Somerset – many of whom attended today’s launch – took part in a series of work shops and helped draw up the plan and set its priorities.

The plan will inform and focus the efforts of the Council, Avon and Somerset Police and Somerset NHS with the aim of improving the lives of children and young people by strengthening families and communities and tackling the numerous challenges they face.

The priorities chosen by children and young people and outlined in the plan covered better health provision and access to affordable activities to support health and wellbeing, support for parents, useful training and social skills, and ensuring schools and colleges were safe places.

The Plan’s overall vision is for Somerset’s children and young people to be happy, healthy and preparing for adulthood.

Somerset County Council’s Director of Children’s Services, Julian Wooster said: “The plan is critical for Somerset, it really focusses on the challenges facing families bringing up children.

“It’s so important we provide families with the right level of support to succeed in life and to bring up children so they can participate fully in education and other activities to prepare them for adulthood.”

Sandra Corry, Director of Quality and Patient Safety at Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group said: “One of the key things we’re doing in health is improving access to mental health services for young people and ensuring help is available at an earlier stage.
“We want to prevent young people possibly ending up in A&E because they have self-harmed.
“We want our GP practices, the Council and Public Health to really wrap services around the child and young person and how we support parents.”

Superintendent of Avon and Somerset Police, Mike Prior added: “This plan is all about giving children and young people the best possible start in life.
“We want everyone in Somerset to grow up safe, secure and looking to the future, able to contribute to society, make the county their home and in turn bring their children up here too.”

You can read the plan in full here

Improving Commissioning through a VCSE Single Point of Contact

The Single Point of Contact (SPOC) model is currently being dicsussed as part of the Richmond Group‘s work, exploring to how to build and improve collaboration between the voluntary sector and public bodies.

We thought it would be useful to share NAVCA‘s report, Improving Commissioning through a VCSE Single Point of Contact (May 17), which explores the SPOC model, how it works, and the value it can bring. 

Read the report here.

Avon and Somerset Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner Victim Services Commissioning Plan

The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) has published its Commissioning Plan for victim services in Avon and Somerset.

The OPCC engaged with multiple, varied stakeholders, including VCSE organisations in Somerset, to ensure their views were heard and considered in the development of future victim services.

You can read the plan here.

Keep it Local Guide for Community Organisations

Locality believe that by commissioning local community organisations to provide local services, councils can create better, more responsive services and build a fairer, more resilient local economy.

They have been working in Bradford, Bristol, Calderdale, Dorset, Hackney and Shropshire, to find out how local authorities and community organisations can work together to create a better local commissioning environment.

Their report, Powerful Communities, Strong Economies, sets out the key findings from their action research, based around a co-produced Keep it Local: Economic Resilience Framework.

They have now launched a series of guides which set out how to put this approach into practice. The guides are aimed at community organisations, councillors, and commissioners, and provide practical advice on how to tackle the barriers identified in the research and keep services with local providers.

The series includes the Keep it Local Guide for Community Organisations, which shows how to use the Keep it Local: Economic Resilience Framework to measure an organisation’s impact on the local economy. It includes a 10 step guide to measuring and improving impact, and a practical toolkit produced by NEF Consulting.

Kings Fund Report: Commissioner perspectives on working with the VCSE sector

The King’s Fund was commissioned by the Department of Health to conduct research that would explore how and why clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and local authorities chose to engage with the VCSE sector.

Commissioner perspectives on working with the VCSE sector first sets out the methodology, used and then presents their findings on the factors that underpin the adoption of different approaches. It discusses how commissioners’ perceptions of their own strategic role, as well as their views on what role the VCSE sector plays in the local area, appear to exert a strong influence on commissioning decisions.

Key messages

  • There is wide variation in the way commissioners engage with the VCSE sector. Some commissioners saw their role solely as stimulating a market of providers, with no particular interest in creating a strong VCSE sector. Others had made a clear choice about the value of the VCSE sector as a critical player in developing asset-based approaches to care, engaging VCSE organisations as key partners in co-production of health and care outcomes.
  • The primary drivers for choosing a commissioning approach are local, not national. Strong local leadership, often political, and relationships with the sector are important to creating a partnership-based approach in the face of sometimes seemingly conflicting national priorities.
  • Most, if not all, of the commissioners we spoke to had heard of the Social Value Act and the Care Act, but their knowledge and use of these national legislative powers varied widely, from those that actively used them to support their commissioning intentions to those who were only minimally aware of them.
  • Co-production – sitting down with VCSE organisations as partners and equals – requires strong and mature relationships both within the sector and between the sector and commissioners. These relationships require time and attention to develop and maintain, and leaders of commissioning organisations need to be clearer about the need to invest in relationship-building.
  • While the NHS five year forward view outlines a commitment to developing stronger partnerships with VCSE organisations as part of a ‘new relationship with patients and communities’, in many areas commissioners are not prioritising these relationships.
  • Changes to commissioning may raise more challenges for successful co-production. As integrated care organisations develop, it is unclear who bears responsibility for supporting and developing community assets. There is a risk that more transactional approaches could develop in the absence of clear incentives to involve VCSE organisations in co-producing commissioning intentions.
  • Commissioners reported that they face intense pressure to deliver improved value for money and better outcomes. They were not convinced that grants were inherently better than contracts, rather they emphasised the importance of appropriate and proportionate use of whichever mechanism was chosen
  • Information governance emerged as one of the most challenging issues around commissioning health and care services from VCSE organisations. For some, this was a serious barrier that prevented VCSE organisations from entering the marketplace.
  • The VCSE sector has a role in coming together to provide a strong and unified voice as it engages with commissioners. This requires leadership from within the sector to manage competition between different organisations. Strong leadership is essential to build collaboration and partnerships within the sector and with commissioners.

You can read the full report here.

Tapping the Potential

The Richmond Group of Charities brings together 14 of the leading health and social care organisations in the voluntary sector, with the aim of improving care and support for the 15 million people living with long-term conditions that we represent.

Tapping the Potential, published today by the Richmond Group, is the latest publication from their Doing the Right Thing programme – an approach to building meaningful collaboration between the voluntary sector and public bodies.

The report describes their work so far in Somerset, and although largely intended for a national audience it will still be of interest to Somerset-based organisations.

On-going VCSE engagement with this work in Somerset has included local Richmond Group members, a wider group who have attended Stronger Communities workshops, and feedback through the VCSE Strategic Forum.

Does your charity follow serious incident reporting guidelines?

In light of the recent headlines relating to our sector, it is important to remember that all charities, whether operating at an international, national or local level, have a duty to safeguard their beneficiaries, volunteers and staff, and have clear and robust policies in place for reporting serious incidents.

This blog, by the Charity Finance Group, contains useful guidance for charities on how to identify what is deemed a ‘serious incident’, who should report the incident, and how it should be done.

‘How Connected Are You?’ Survey Report Published

Healthwatch Somerset have identified that there is a need to find out from local people how connected they feel and why, and how being connected affects feelings of loneliness and isolation.

As a result of this, they designed the ‘How Connected Are You?’ survey. The survey was released both online and distributed via paper copies to various groups and services within Somerset.

They have now put together a report on the results of the survey.

Key findings:

An equal amount of those completing the survey identified as not being at all connected with family, friends and their community, as those who identified as being extremely well connected.

These results were fairly evenly split between those who live in rural locations, and those who live in urban or sub-urban areas. This suggests that living in an urban or rural location does not obviously relate to how connected people feel.

Read the full report here