The Supported Volunteering Project and beyond

Hello! My name is Ellie and for those who don’t know me, I worked at the Supported Volunteering Project (SVP) for 6 years.

I recently came back from maternity leave and found many changes to the sector, and to my role, so I often feel I am starting a new job altogether.  From the tools we use, to the ways we communicate – working from home rather than at the hub in Arbury Court, to the needs of the community, and a new inspiring willingness for the voluntary sector to work together.

The SVP was set up in 2012 by Cambridge and District Volunteer Centre (CDVC) to help those needing extra support to get involved in volunteering. When the CDVC closed, CambridgeCVS recognised the need for the support and took over the project.

It has been a beautiful journey so far enabling me to witness people from all backgrounds, putting their hearts into new challenges and helping create a more just and balanced community. I’ve had many opportunities to grow and learn, both personally, and professionally.

What I particularly enjoyed in my role was the ability to listen to people and their stories, being inspired by them and working out how to best utilise their lived experiences, their skills (that often they did not even identify as skills) and their passions. Working together with professionals enabled us to discover as a team, that the prospective volunteer often had the best answers themselves all along, and encouragement and guidance was all they needed to reach their potential and in turn to encourage and teach others to do the same.

Being passionate about community and people, I am full of admiration for the projects and people I meet every day. Cambridge is a melting pot of cultures and skills and people can, with the right support, achieve incredible results once they connect with their community.

During my years at the SVP, people came to us, to some degree, in waves, responding to events in the community, or in their own lives, that made them feel increasingly isolated or unable to connect with others. I have worked with people struggling with poor mental health, those who were new to Cambridge and the country and people who had been unemployed long term, as well as people with disabilities, stay at home parents, carers, and young people considering a gap year.

When the pandemic hit, I was on maternity leave and trying to get along like everyone else during such an upsetting time. But I was amazed by the community response to the emergency, and my heart was full of hope and wonder how people just got on and helped each other, getting to know their neighbours and community in time of need.

For some, it was the first opportunity to volunteer. I interviewed several residents and found that people who had never volunteered before, did so during lockdown, as “a way to keep mentally healthy and feel useful”. Others, who had volunteered before, found their role had changed as had the needs of their clients, some just started helping neighbours and built connections, albeit socially distanced, that they “should have made years before.”

At CCVS, we realised we need to rethink and reshape our volunteering support, to respond to needs and changes that the pandemic unearthed. Volunteering is for all: everybody can volunteer, and everybody needs the voluntary sector and its army of volunteers. It is our intention, as a community development organisation, to work towards accessible and barrier free volunteering opportunities for all.

It is very exciting for me to be back at work with a strong and caring team of colleagues, who, like me, believe in community and its potential.  We aim to support long, mutually beneficial, meaningful relationships with local community groups and volunteers.

For now, we have restarted 1:1 support by phone, email and online. We have begun a new activity: “Walk and Talk about Volunteering” which is a chance for people (potential volunteers, volunteers and voluntary organisations) to meet, walk, and chat about all things volunteering – such as opportunities, projects and application processes.

We already deliver training, currently online, and facilitate volunteer manager forums. We give advice to those in support or caring roles who would like to become volunteers. We work with organisations and offer guidance with volunteer recruitment and management and encourage recruitment from all parts of the community. We plan to restart group presentations and participation in events promoting volunteering. Finally, we encourage the care and kindness that our sector best represents and push for change where needed to empower everybody to become the volunteer they want to be.

If you would like to know more please get in touch with me ellie@cambridgecvs.org.uk or call 07840989719.

Adult Education – A chance for charities to take part in commissioning

The Adult Education Budget for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is moving to the Combined Authority (CA) from next April. They have now started the process about how provision will be procured and if you want a slice of the pie don’t drink too much over New Year as you will need to be bright eyed and bushy tailed on 2nd January to start looking at making your application.

We here at CCVS are still getting our heads round how all this will work having attended a recent workshop, but fair to say it is not only us with the new CA admitting that they have been on a steep learning curve over the last eight months. There are a couple of sets of slides from the recent workshop that we will make available if we get them, and anyone who is thinking of bidding will need to get to grips with the CA skills strategy which is yet to be published, but more info on the priorities etc can be found here. http://cambridgeshirepeterborough-ca.gov.uk/about-us/programmes/adult-education-budget/

UPDATE. This page now contains copies of the slides from the presentations as well as a summary of the questions and answers from both workshops.

The timetable for this is, in the words of the CA

“We now intend to publish our SSQ and ITT on Wednesday 2 January 2019, following which will be a 38-day tendering period, closing on Friday 8 February 2019.

Evaluation of all SSQ’s and ITT’s will take place in February/March with contracts being awarded in early April.

Second Market Engagement Workshop – Early December 2018

Standard Selection Questionnaire and Invitation to Tender issued – Early January 2019

SSQ and ITT deadline submission date – Early February 2019

Evaluation of tender submission – February/March 2019

Contract award date – Early April 2019

Full AEB devolution – August 2019″

The budget for 2019-20 will be around £12.1 million. Of this around £9 million will go to the main provides, predominantly the big colleges. This leaves around £3 million for more local provision. That will be what this procurement round will be for. We think there may also be some small grants as a tender to run a programme was released but this is not guaranteed, we will keep you updated on this as we can.

What we gleaned from our workshop, this was what we heard and will need to be clarified if you want to bid.

  • There will be about £3 million available to tender for
  • There will be no minimum or maximum contract size (update there will be a £50K minimum now)
  • The process will involve formal online tendering
  • Although you will be bidding for 1 year this will decide the delivery partners for the next 3 years. If you don’t get in now there will not be another window for at least 3 years.
  • There will be an emphasis on accredited training, but if what you do is pre accreditation level or you use successful unaccredited training to move people on then there will be some weight given to this – but not lots from what we heard
  • The new team want to hear from you if you have any questions or comments. Importantly if you do apply and are unsure ring them do not make assumptions.
  • The process will be by the book, do exactly what they ask and do not try and simply bend the application to fit your work, it will not score well.
  • They are open to consortia bids, but please talk to them first. This is partly because they are putting a 20% cap on what can be outsourced.
  • There are likely to be separate priorities for Cambridge, Peterborough and the rural bits in-between.
  • The funding criteria and I assume cost per learner are not set by the CA, they are using national guidelines.
  • This will be quite an onerous application process so if you going to do it start early, there will be no extensions.
  • If you are successful you will be subject to the audit rules for this funding, this will include recording information on the Individual Learner Record (ILR), make sure you think about admin within any budgets.

One of the advantages of this move to the CA is that it may well have allowed additional money to be drawn into the area and this money will not be clawed back if there is a year 1 underspend. That said they are still looking at how they deal with possible underspends.

The other key advantage is that they appear to be starting from scratch, and the long tail of old providers have to join the party anew. This means that we should be able to address the fact that many local providers were not able to get a foot in the door. That said those who were at my event included people from Suffolk, from Boston, a national org based in Hemel Hempstead, from People Plus formally A4E and a number of other national providers.

My one concern was about the weight given to social value and the Social Value Act. I felt that the answer to my question on how this would be taken into account was vague with a reply that there was a question about it in the ITT but no idea on weighting. I have not been impressed about how any of the local commissioning has addressed social value, but we will have to wait to see if it would score extra to be a local provider using local people to deliver locally etc. We will be pushing the CA to give due consideration to the Social Value Act so that local non profit providers are given the extra makes for all the added value they bring.

We are not the experts on this but we are happy to have a conversation with anyone with any questions. That said the CA stressed how approachable they are so maybe go directly to them.

What the Health is going on?

Hands up – it has been a while since any reports on attendance at health meetings, so this blog is designed to rectify that and to draw together some general thoughts on health related issues and the voluntary sector.

So what is going on – the big news is that the new provider for adult services has been announced. UnitingCare Partnership, which is a consortium of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust with Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, are the lucky winners. They will have a duty to work with voluntary sector providers and we will need to keep a close eye on how the sector can get involved and especially how smaller local providers can be supported.

Another big announcement saw the publication of the Public Health Annual Report This can be viewed here. This report sets out the different health issues facing the county broken down by district. The report will inform much of the future work across the council and CCG and should be regarded as a source of information for VCS organisations.

Other big health news includes

  • The Better Care Fund which is a government plan for allowing local areas to reform health care. It looks to move funding from acute to community health provision. The County Council are responsible for this and have put in their initial plans to government. This has been a long and difficult process and the sector have been involved to some part, but expressions of interest for projects have not been taken forward despite the time and effort put into preparing them. More information can be found in the papers from the latest Health and Wellbeing Board here.
  • The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group CCG have been developing a Five Year Plan. More information can be found on the CCG website. There is ongoing discussion as to the role of the VCS in this and it is important that we keep an eye on how providers can get involved. The fact that this area is one of the countries ‘financially challenged health authorities’ probably precludes lots of money for grants to support projects, this does not mean that some funding should not flow into the sector.

These notes follow attendance at the following meetings (if papers are available follow the links)

So what does all this tell us about health and what the voluntary sector can do?

There seem to a whole raft of positives for the sector in all these new initiatives. Firstly everyone is expressing their love for the work that we do to ensure healthier communities; secondly there is a real narrative that services have to move to a more preventative nature, this is great for the sector because as a rule it is where the bulk of our work is situated. Thirdly there is a move to a more person centred, local style of service, again right up the sectors street. There are undoubtedly going to be opportunities for sector providers to play a role in the new ways of working but things are not all rosy – given that there are severe financial constraints, given that commissioning does not generally favour the small, localised and specialist services that a lot of CCVS members provide, and given that acute services can not be stopped and will continue to demand greater funding despite the desire to work more preventively.

Finally we must recognise that change brings about a certain amount of introspection and this has been evident in those organisations responsible for funding health and wellbeing; hopefully, although there are still changes happening, both the CCG and the County Council are looking out more and more. I believe that it is important that as they start looking out they see a confident and professional VCS waiting to take up the opportunities that arise. There needs to be more joined up thinking about how the sector delivers and this is starting to happen, and there needs to be projects that clearly align with the priorities that have been articulated.

South Cambs Local Health Partnership

South Cambs Local Health Partnership

The papers for this meeting are not made publically available on the South Cambs website.

This meeting discussed 4 different topics. To some extent many of these issues overlap and all feed into the various priorities of the health and wellbeing board strategy. The VCS is playing an important role in delivering services in these areas and will have to adapt to the changing environment, but at the same time we need to make sure our contribution is recognised.

Please let me have your thoughts on the questions posed, and the blog in general, as the more information and feedback we have the stronger our arguments are and the better we are able to spot opportunities and issues that are emerging.

Housing related support in South Cambs

Housing related support services have always been offered to those living in council accommodation. They are designed to help people remain in their homes and to stay healthy and fit whilst there. They are offered to people across the age range, however in South Cambs the majority of those assisted are elderly. That said there are links into services for those suffering homelessness, domestic abuse or other problems that might see them unable to maintain their tenancy. The Housing Related Support Team is a county wide service based at CCC.

For more info see here www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/social/supportingpeople/

New plans are afoot to expand the service to everyone who needs it. This has some potential problems despite the fact that it is a good idea. My issues are, what is the budget and what happens if money runs out; what are the criteria for getting free help and for being told where to access the same, but paid for, help.

My questions for you:

Is this a treat to the services you supply or could it be an opportunity?

What services to supply that help people stay in their homes and stay healthy that you think the team should know about so they can refer people to you?

The impact of the new growth areas

The problem of what happens when we build lots of new homes is on many peoples minds at the moment. People in those houses need access to services and amenities, there needs to be a community to help improve peoples wellbeing and ideally there needs to be an integration with existing communities.

Many of the physical amenities and payment for some of the services comes from the developers in return for being allowed to build. What I do not understand is how the power has shifted into the hands of the developer and away from the planners etc. so that the developers are dictating what they will supply. The meeting highlighted that all the statutory partners can not get their act together to come up with a single definitive plan to build healthy communities, and that  the tension between different teams in some statutory bodies often seem to result in mixed messages coming out of one authority, so adding to the lack of a single voice talking to the developers. Surely if we all speak as one we can build for communities and not for profits!

There needs to be shift back to ensuring that the services and amenities that make a community are put in place and can be maintained. We have many good examples (as well as bad ones) both nationally and locally and these should be built on and the developers made to pay where that is appropriate.

My questions for you:

How do we stand up to the developers to ensure that the facilities and funding is put ahead of profits?

What is it that makes a successful new development?

Access to services by Young People and Families

There are considerable numbers of services being supplied by the VCS, many are recognised and supported, however much of the work is under the radar and with those families and individuals who have not reached the thresholds for intervention by health, social services, the local authority or the Police etc. A great deal of the work is preventative and stops issues escalating and as such helps reduce the costs to statutory services.

This will be an on-going topic of conversation for the LHP and it would be good to have your views on what you are doing, how it is funded, and whether it is recognised as saving people money.

Issues affecting the elderly community (this incorporated the Ageing well agenda that has been joined to the LHP agenda)

The growing problem of an aging population keeps raising its head. There is undoubtedly going to be big changes to the services and what is on offer as well as what people want and expect. What is clear is that there is no long term plan within any of our statutory partners; even Addenbrooks only really looks to 3 or 4 years in the future, despite the fact it takes upwards of 8 years to develop new facilities that may be needed.

We need to start to think about what our services will look like in the future and how they may be delivered.

Upcoming opportunity – The young peoples sexual health service tender will be put out soon. Check out the Cambridgeshire Source website where it will be announced.