On 15 December 2020 the Cabinet approved a number of recommendations relating to the sustainability and future relationship of the voluntary sector in Medway. The recommendations were based on a Business Support Overview and Scrutiny Task Group findings. This paper provides an update against these actions.
Following Cabinet’s approval of a number of recommendations relating to the sustainability and future relationship of the voluntary sector in Medway, on 15 December 2020, the Committee considered a report that provided an update against the actions.
The Committee heard from Jane Howard (CEO of Medway Voluntary Action), Martyn Reeves (Independent Chair of the VCS Leaders Network and Chief Executive of Wisdom Hospice), Dan McDonald (CEO of Citizens Advice Medway) and Eithne Rynne (Chief Executive of Kent Association for the Blind), who made the following points:
· The work of the voluntary sector had been invaluable during the pandemic when a partnership approach had led to very good working relationships which remained in place.
· The sector had supported the delivery of Council services by filling some of the gaps in service provision caused by the pandemic.
· The sector needed support to aid its recovery from the pandemic. Many small voluntary organisations had not recovered, whilst others had merged with larger organisations.
· Organisations which had not been able to visit clients’ homes had adapted the services they provided in order to continue to maintain contact with clients who may be suffering from low self-esteem and isolation.
· MVA was consolidating its partnership work into 3 strands:
o A transformation academy with an emphasis on key members of the sector coming together to look at doing things differently to build resilience. This would then be rippled out to other organisations.
o A formalised alliance to enable smaller organisations to access support functions at a cheaper rate than currently.
o Work in partnership with Nottingham Trent University to identify the needs of the sector and develop a knowledge transfer.
· The memorandum of understanding (MOU) was a good opportunity to formalise relationships with the CCG and statutory sector. However, this statement of intent needed to be followed by action.
· The voluntary sector was focused on achieving good health outcomes and was looking to the CCG to come forward with support as the Council was doing.
· The Community Lottery programme had been slow to take off and more work was needed to increase its visibility.
· Developing a business case for a single point of contact was welcomed and the close working relationship with officers from Public Health was being consolidated.
Members and the representatives of the voluntary sector discussed the need for expertise around funding bids and the need for shared support services and succession planning to ensure organisations continued to be well led. It was recognised that the availability of suitable premises was one of the biggest issues that charities in Medway faced. Use of Council buildings for a peppercorn rent was suggested as one possible solution.
It was noted that many younger people had come forward to volunteer during the pandemic and it was suggested that the sector reach out to educational establishments to advertise opportunities for careers in the voluntary sector. It was suggested that the academy work to develop a resource for recruiting volunteers. Being open minded and inclusive in the recruitment of volunteers was also beneficial as many good volunteers came from the probation service or were care leavers.
The difficulties faced by charities that had to bid to renew contracts every two years was identified as an area that needed to be recognised and addressed as this had a detrimental impact on service users.
Members were advised that the issue of how social prescribing was benefitting residents was due to be reported to the Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee early in 2022.
Members thanked the representatives of the voluntary sector for attending the meeting, and for the hard work of the sector during the pandemic.
The Committee noted the report and the progress made against the Task Group’s recommendations.