Hundreds of voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations contributed their expertise and experiences to the Joint VCSE Review this year which recommended 28 changes to the way national and local government invests in - and works with - the VCSE sector. As the application process opens for a new VCSE Health and Wellbeing Alliance, Alex Fox, Chief Executive of Shared Live Plus - and chair of the review - explains its origins and goals...
We identified a shared goal for government, the NHS and the VCSE sector: to help people, families and communities achieve and maintain their own wellbeing.
There was wide agreement that this is best achieved when people and communities are actively involved in co-designing systems and services.
The VCSE sector, therefore, has two vital roles: 1) To make sure people from all groups and communities get involved in the co-design process and 2) To help deliver more person-centred and community-based services.
Today sees the launch of applications for the VCSE Health and Wellbeing Alliance, which we recommended as the national flagship programme to embed the role of VCSE organisations within the health and care system.
VCSE organisations recruited to the alliance will need to demonstrate their reach into local, small scale or specialist charities, social enterprises and community groups. Likewise, they must be committed to helping the Department of Health, NHS England, Public Health England and other national bodies hear the voices of people and communities who use health and care services, so that policies are truly ‘co-produced’.
The alliance, along with a fund expected to be launched early in the new financial year, form the Health and Wellbeing Programme, which will be the place where central government, NHS England and Public Health England come together with VCSE organisations to drive transformation of health and care systems. This single, integrated programme builds on the successes of its predecessor, the Voluntary Sector Investment Programme.
The final report of the Joint Review was published in May and since then work has been progressing to implement the 28 recommendations made.
An oversight group, which includes representatives of a broad cross section of the VCSE sector and government, has been established to oversee the implementation of the recommendations. Some are long term changes, but I’m heartened by the enthusiasm with which a number of agencies have embraced shorter term recommendations about how the state and the VCSE sector can work more effectively together. For example, CQC are thinking about how to include the value of personalisation, social action and the use of volunteers as they review their Key Lines of Enquiry.
Meanwhile, NHS England and partners are developing a social prescribing programme. Some areas are creating living maps of their VCSE assets, which is a vital first step to treating them as partners.
The Joint Review also set out challenges to the VCSE sector itself: to help drive the shift towards ‘asset-based’ approaches (which build people’s capabilities and resilience), to keep and build its roots in local communities and to demonstrate its impact.
The VCSE Health and Wellbeing Alliance is an opportunity to rise to those challenges, which I hope many organisations in our sector will embrace.