A guided tour of the voluntary sector

Exploring key issues and people in the voluntary sector in Yorkshire & Humber

Involve Yorkshire & Humber held this conference on 14 February 2013 at The Showroom in Sheffield. The aim of the event was to be an expert guide around the voluntary and community sector in Yorkshire & Humber for those wanting to get a broader perspective of the sector they are working in, or for those outside the sector wanting to work closer with it. 

Key points

A brief tour of the voluntary sector - Judy Robinson, CEO Involve Yorkshire & Humber

Download Judy's presentation here.

Delivering Services - Julie Robinson, CEO St Anne’s Community Services

  • St Anne’s works with 19 health and local authorities across the north of England, many of which are in Yorkshire and Humber. It has 1,500 employees who amongst other things work with people with mental health issues, learning difficulties and with homeless people.
  • St Anne’s has a commitment to provide high quality in its care and in its employment practises.
  • Most of St Anne’s funding is from statutory sources, so cuts to local authorities own budgets have had an impact. One city in the region has cut funding by a third for homeless people’s services. This has meant a review of how those services are delivered which can reveal new and better ways, but also can result in having to reduce the added value aspects of the service.
  • Local authorities have different approaches to St Anne’s staff development commitment - sometimes because of the perceived cost.
  • The use of volunteers, which St Anne’s sees as offering opportunities, can be threatening to staff who worry about their livelihoods, and the reduction of things like bus services early in the morning or late at night impact on staff reliant on public transport.
  • Changing demographics will mean that more care will be needed.

Developments in communities - Mandy Wilson, Community Consultant

  • There are a number of Government initiatives which relate to the community sector and these include: Community First - which is a small grants programme that supports grass roots activities; Community Organisers who work in neighbourhoods based in host organisations (new hosts are being sought now) and Big Local, a resident led programme which is working in every local authority in our region, for example in North Cleethorpes and Dewsbury Moor in this region. They are all piloting new approaches and some like Big Local have creative ways of developing future funds and are not tied to timescales and targets.
  • The lack of management fee to run programmes that are sub contracted out by government is worrying as the consequences, e.g. on line systems, don’t meet everyone’s needs.
  • As ever, the community sector is thriving, surviving and dying.
  • Much community activity was never funded and is carrying on but it is affected by the loss of support agencies. Even volunteer led ideas need a bit of resource.
  • Increasingly, hidden support such as a free/reduced price room and kitchen to run a drop-in or coffee morning are harder to find. These provide vital places to meet and offer informal support to people who may be lonely or need informal advice.
  • The voice of communities is just as important as the services that may be provided - but commissions for this are unlikely!
  • Volunteers are important in community groups but the capacity to recruit and train them is reducing and we might just use up all the goodwill. In addition, in these times of austerity, infrastructure organisations can become too focussed on their own survival and service provision rather than the support community groups need.
  • Welfare benefit changes will have a huge impact on disadvantaged communities and threaten to break up community networks built up over many years.

Workin in a local area - Chris Easton, Calderdale Parents and Carers

  • Calderdale Parents and Carers has created a high quality service for parents of disabled children that is trusted and has a clear focus.
  • As local authorities do less there are opportunities to work with them to develop more innovative services nearer to need.
  • The voluntary sector does need to challenge the perception of commissioners to demonstrate that it can deliver efficiently, provide added value services and work together.
  • Smaller voluntary or community groups need support to understand commissioning, to explain their impact and can provide solutions.
  • Local authorities can still see the sector as a cheap option and still only offer short contracts which undermine stability and staff morale.
  • 90% of funding is not tendered it is built on good relationships.
  • In commissioning processes, getting commissioners to understand the different between commissioning and procurement is vital.

West Yorkshire Racial Justice Programme - Maureen Grant, Joseph Rowntree Charitable trust 

Download Maureen's presentation here

  • The new Programme has an emphasis on working with grantees over time as they deliver their projects so that they share the benefits of working collectively.
  • One of the Programme’s aims is to change public perceptions around Islamaphobia and to look at the underlying causes of racial injustice.
  • Some communities in West Yorkshire feel targeted by initiatives like Prevent on anti terrorism and sometimes there is a lack of information and involvement.
  • The impact of local authority cuts has been felt in the BME VCS particularly.
  • The loss of legal aid in some cases means that the burden of cost prevents justice.
  • In addition, the weakening of duties to assess the equality impacts of polices is undermining progress on equality along with reduced staffing resource in local authorities and other statutory agencies.
  • The failure to listen properly to BME populations and the need for better understanding of communities by public bodies continues.
  • At the same time the demographic changes of BME populations makes all these issues more pressing - not less.

Resources from the event

Other useful resources

  • Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust - The Quest for Racial Justice: a reflection of the West Yorkshire Racial Justice Programme 1993-2011
  • Yorkshire & Humber Rural Network - Rural Lifelines: how the voluntary sector reaches out to the most disadvantaged residents in Yorkire and the Humber
  • Involve Yorkshire & Humber - Quarterly Confidence Surveys: surveys on the experiences of voluntary and community organisations across Yorkshire & the Humber

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