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VCSE grants – never just about the money

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As more than 30 voluntary, community and social enterprise sector organisations benefit from nearly £9million of Department of Health funding over the next three years, Alex Fox, CEO of Shared Lives Plus and independent chair of the Joint Review of the VCSE Sector reflects on government’s role as a bestower of grants.

Alex Fox: There is a strong case for the VCSE sector to foster community resilience
Alex Fox: '...convergence of the aims of charities and government is common in the health and care sector'

What role does government have as a grant giver, particularly in these times of austerity? That is one of the questions we have been asking ourselves for the year and a bit that the advisory group of the Joint Review of the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector has been meeting, which included a full public consultation during the autumn.


The group includes representatives of a broad cross section of the VCSE sector, as well as representatives of the three partner agencies: Department of Health, NHS England and Public Health England.


The Review was set up to look into the state of partnerships between the state and the VCSE sector, at both local and national level, and to recommend ways in which those partnerships could be strengthened and the work of the VCSE sector made more sustainable.


As part of that national picture, we sought views about the Voluntary Sector Investment Programme (VSIP) which is made up of the Strategic Partners programme, the Innovation, Excellence and Strategic Development fund and the Health and Social Care Volunteering Fund. We found strong consensus around the vision set out in the Five Year Forward View, the Care Act 2014 and the Public Health Framework for health and care services which are embedded in communities, building the capacity and resilience of people who use services, their families and communities. We also found a gap between that vision and the focus of many local areas.


Role-modelling close working with the VCSE sector and proper investment in those partnerships is one of the unique benefits of the VSIP. As government policy making teams continue to reduce in size, the model of open policy making, drawing on the reach of the VCSE sector into overlooked communities, becomes ever more vital. The VSIP has funded a vast amount of valuable work over the last seven years, helping to demonstrate and embed new approaches to tackling deep-rooted challenges. The VSIP has had the opportunity to fund transformation activity, which may not have been easy to fund through other sources. Whilst government funding budgets are under unprecedented pressure, government remains in a unique position to combine its funding, policy making and convening power with the resources of the VCSE sector, including other grant funders.


Like hundreds of other charities, we have been an applicant to the fund, and our most recent grant has match-funded a grant from the Dunhill Medical Trust so we and our local members can develop the family-based Shared Lives approach as intermediate / home from hospital care. This helps some of the most vulnerable patients to return to independence, whilst also relieving pressure on the NHS. Despite inevitable areas of disagreement, that convergence of the aims of charities and government is common in the health and care sector, where so much has been invested in co-produced policy making. It demonstrates the value of the VSIP and we are looking forward to seeing the Review’s recommendations taken forward when we publish them very shortly.


Alongside Shared Lives Plus, other successfully funded projects include help for young adult carers with employment, a Cavendish Cancer Care cancer buddying scheme, a resilience and mental wellbeing project for young people and an initiative to promote positive maternal mental health and support women with perinatal mental illness.

Sarah McMullen from National Childbirth Trust (NCT) running the project hopes “ ... the shared learning will help break the stigma that surrounds perinatal mental health and support all women to access the support they need. For Nicola Aylward, Head of Learning for Young People, it’s also all about the learning – she believes the money granted to the Learning and Work Institute has the power “ …to make a difference to hundreds of young adult carers’ lives, helping them to move into learning and work and ultimately build sustainable, rewarding careers."

We look forward to featuring the stories of grant winners on the Social Care News blog as projects get underway - do get in touch if you’d like to be featured.

Further information

Here's the full list of organisations making successful bids to the Health and Social Care Volunteering Fund or to the Innovation, Excellence and Strategic Development Fund:

• The Anna Freud Centre – Youth Wellbeing Collaboration
• Child Accident Prevention - Preventing home accidents to under-5s
• Shared Lives Plus Ltd – Intermediate care and re-ablement
• The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) – Perinatal mental health
• Asthma UK – Asthma attack reduction programme
• Tamba (Twins and Multiple Births Association) – Best practice in maternity care for multiple pregnancies
• Youth Access – Integrated quality project
• The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) – Taking the rise out of falls
• Parkrun Ltd – Increasing physical activity among excluded groups
• Samaritans – Improving care for people in emotional distress
• MacIntyre Care – Dementia care
• SeeAbility – Children in Focus
• South Yorkshire Housing Association – Co-production to drive radical changes in healthcare commissioning
• Learning Work Institute – Young adult carers – positive career choices
• Totnes Caring – Caring Town Totnes
• Living Options Devon – Peer network for personal budget holders
• Age UK North Tyneside – Wellbeing through timebanks
• Home Start South Leicestershire – Family know-how groups
• The Thornbury Centre – Street Life & Company
• WECIL Ltd – Experts by Experience
• Bosence Farm Community Ltd – Volunteer empowerment and supporting
• Trinity Hospice – At home volunteer service
• Young People Cornwall – Heads Up Again!
• Disability Challengers – Improving health and care outcomes for disabled children and young people
• Havens Hospices – Hospice Neighbours
• Kingston Voluntary Action – Connecting Care Kingston
• LinkAge West of England Ltd – LinkAge ACE programme
• The Trust for Developing Communities – Neighbourhood community activity and volunteering to tackle loneliness
• Cavendish Cancer Care – Cancer buddying scheme
• Headway Cambridgeshire – Growing Together
• Rhubarb Farm CIC – Rural Rhubarb
• Voluntary Action Broxtowe – Caring Companions
• Woodthorpe Development Trust Ltd – Community garden project
• Advonet – Leeds Autism AIM
• Friendship at Home – Friends Reaching Out
• Girls Development Projects - TeenSpace
• Community Links Trust Ltd – More Than Mentors
• Family Action - Social prescribing health champions
• The Conservation Volunteers – Proactive Minds

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1 comment

  1. Comment by Tim Midgley posted on

    Research Trial into Cognitive failure of 250 people
    Three defined groups:
    • Vascular Dementia
    • Alzheimer’s Disease
    • Mixed Dementia
    The groups can be further broken down into early/late or mild and severe.
    The intervention consists of 4 every day drugs and food supplements and visual and audio stimulation and within 12 months 100% had recovered their previous cognitive function and memory.

    I asked the Department of Health to fund a University Teaching Hospital to fund a fully independant trial.

    They would have an intervention with five subcomponents. So if they subdivided the three dementia groups into mild and severe we end up with 11 variables. The basic tool to determine if an intervention works is the placebo controlled trial. For interventions where the effect is transient we can do a cross over trail where the subject becomes their own control and this increases the statistical power of the trail, however in interventions where there will be a residual beneficial effect we can only do a parallel placebo controlled trail set out in the schema below.
    Clinical studies are conducted in four phases:
    1. Testing the intervention in humans to determine safety – this is not necessary as these interventions have all been previously tried.
    2. To undertake a small trial to determine the likely size of the effect so a power calculation can be undertaken for a large trial.
    3. This is a definitive clinical trial with numbers large enough to demonstrate a statistically significant effect usually set at p<0.05 or a 1:20 risk of benefit being seen by chance.
    4. Post marketing trial to provide additional safety or efficacy data and can also be used to expand the population to whom the intervention can be applied.
    In the initial phase when we are trying to provide evidence of proof of concept we should do a simple phase II trial with three arms:
    • Placebo (age matched controls)
    • Vascular dementia
    • Mild to moderate Alzheimer’s Disease.

    This would give the DOH et al., a fully independent trials by their own teaching University Hospital who have seen for themselves the transformation of their patients. (who had
    Vascular Dementia not only recover but go on to invent and patent complex equipment)

    To date the DOH are not interested; despite the reality being in the UK it would give 85k people their lives back moreover save the UK treasury in the year 2017 - 2018 in excess of
    £ 4.8 billion year on year plus inflation thereafter.

    However like most british innovations end up being exploited by others and then purchased
    back by the UK Plc.,at a substantive premium as the drug companies who make the 4 drugs
    in the knowledge their drugs in combination will save UK Plc., Billions each year their cost will
    rise accordingly. One drug today cost 12 pence a day. Moreover can be made in the UK as
    its no longer covered by a patent as can two others therefore the NHS could control these 3
    elements and this would enable them too export 13.5 million drugs a day to the countries who
    would import same.

    One has to wonder why would UK Plc and the DoH want to save £4.8 billion a year furthermore create 10,000 highly paid jobs whilst giving 85,000 people their lives back and their back to them.