Maximising capacity and demonstrating impact – discussion event

Helen Allen, Community Catalysts (originally posted February 2015)

Community Catalysts has been asked to take a lead on the part of the review that focuses on the contribution that the VCSE sector makes to health and wellbeing in the UK. The following report summarises the findings from a focus group meeting held on 18th February 2015 in partnership with the Barking and Dagenham CVS.

The meeting was held in the style of a world café event with 4 tables placed around the room, each with a facilitator asking a question. Participants were asked to move around in groups of 4 or 5, spending approx. 25 minutes at each table to share their views.

What do you do and how do you contribute to the wellbeing of the people you support and your local community?

  • Diaspora- BAME led community organisation offering training and career advancement of people with a particular focus on employment support for marginalised communities. Supports people to gain in confidence, increase socialisation and mental well- being
  • Independent Living Agency- supports individual disabled people promoting independence (via personalisation) so that they can live their own lives. Provides equipment, transport, a cleaning and payroll service
  • Seventh Day Adventist Church Group- runs a Health in Wealth programme around healthy eating and exercise. Their community groups help to support the lonely and isolated via outreach and one to one support at home
  • Volunteer consultant- helps women offenders to rehabilitate and mentors young people and families who are excluded from school
  • East London Francophone programme –provides education around healthy living/physical activity to help people (refugees) gain a positive self-  image and increase mental well- being
  • Brighter Steppings -develops educational programmes for young people and pioneering projects that have a social impact. Includes an app to support the mental health and well –being of young people by creating a space for them to share their thoughts and receive information on local support services
  • Whole Body Therapy- falls prevention, exercise classes and massage therapy for older people.  Improves independent living skills and socialisation potential via classes. Signposts to local services to increase social connections
  • Chadwell health with women’s network- aimed at mothers from BAME groups in the main to reduce isolation via coffee mornings. Deliver workshops on accessing services, dealing with domestic violence and health related issues. Gives business women the opportunity to promote their business
  • Carers of Barking and Dagenham- Support family and young carers. Provides peer support, welfare benefit advice, leisure and respite activities. Reduces isolation and supports people in their caring role
  • Health is Wealth – (second group) part of Seventh Day Adventist Church. Provides health screening at events, signposts to mental health groups
  • Punjabi Centre- provides information on healthy eating, and fun activities to help people to exercise e.g. keep fit classes, karate, women’s football, and hockey. Also teach cooking skills and other activities e.g. hand sewing etc.
  • Africa House London- promotes bilateral trade between the UK and Africa aiming to add value to new and existing trade and business relationships
  • Also in attendance: a representative from the council’s safeguarding team and 2 people looking to set up a service to support young people

How do you demonstrate your impact?

  • Improved access to physical activities provided, demonstrates increased awareness of the benefits of exercise
  • Reduced isolation is demonstrated by the level and range of activities that people engage in
  • Increased number of people who get health tests or screening, is demonstrated by uptake in outreach events
  • Increased volunteering in health initiatives
  • Enhanced ability to share information about people’s health and wellbeing is demonstrated by capturing their emotions
  • Improved access to mainstream services
  • Improved strength, balance and mobility is demonstrated by cancelled hoist orders
  • Improved communication skills on health related matters will be demonstrated through observation from staff and volunteering
  • Increased knowledge and awareness is demonstrated through the level of participation on social media networks and platforms
  • Through compiling reports on outcomes and impact
  • Improved independence is measured by the fact that the  client is able to stay at home
  • Improved lifestyle choices that promote people’s health and wellbeing
  • Reduced isolation and barriers to participation
  • Increased access to social activities
  • Improved befriending networks
  • Increased opportunity to learn new skills from peers
  • Increased aspiration and motivation among young people so that they can achieve their full potential

What evidence do you gather that helps you do this and how do you gather that evidence?

  • Number of people who attend health promotion events
  • Number of people who access outreach health tests and screening
  • Number and range of leaflet dissemination
  • Level of response and feedback from people on health awareness in the community
  • Referral rates
  • Level of enquiries on specific health issues
  • Level of engagement and participation
  • Health and wellbeing questionnaires
  • Gather pre and post evaluation/ assessments
  • Use EQ (Empathy Quotient)questionnaires
  • FRAT (Falls Risk Assessment Tool) scores
  • Feedback/evaluation forms
  • Increased confidence and self-esteem is demonstrated through feedback forms
  • Testimonials
  • Traffic to website and social media platforms
  • How long services are accessed
  • How many people access and complete health and social care training/pass rates in level 2 health and social care /data base of records of training
  • Follow up calls to assess how many people secure employment in health and social care
  • Case studies
  • Records of home visits and enquiries
  • Quality reports from quality assessments
  • Personalised goals for clients are measured
  • Age of clients that attend activities

Do you get grant funding? Who provides that funding? How useful has it been in helping you establish your enterprise and grow?

  • The larger groups present received funding from a range of sources especially grants and contracts – they had been established for a longer period and had some sustainability in contrast to the smaller start- up groups that were facing increased barriers.
  • Much of the funding is self-generating at the start up stage
  • Self-funding- you will never fund your ‘free’ activities
  • Contribution from customers
  • People need to know where to access funding; local advice is important e.g. from CVS/ Community micro- enterprise Co-ordinator/ community associations
  • Many found it difficult to develop start-up funding- small sums only
  • Covering core costs is a problem
  • Funders could do more to encourage new business models
  • Mainstreaming to health- barriers in getting evidence/ knowing who to speak to
  • Sector needs to think differently- how to encourage this?
  • Moving from grants to contracting has led to competition with much bigger organisations; skills issues/creating confidence in the sector; having to demonstrate this all the time.
  • Consortium working is needed but difficult to develop trust- there is more distrust within and between the sector due to the reduction in grants. Less collaboration and more competition
  • Small organisations lack the capacity and skills to do research and assess needs at the level that is really required.

What gets in the way of you providing your service for more people?

  • Restricted activity; charities have to change their constitution with the Charity Commission when diversifying to work with other groups which is time consuming
  • The voluntary sector has a massive part to play in service provision but it needs to paid and funded to do that
  • No recognition from statutory services that the VCSE can deliver to a high standard- but they do achieve good outcomes
  • Health is quite elitist- see the voluntary sector as unqualified and not trustworthy
  • Health services will not use the VCSE where that charges are made for services
  • Hard to build a reputation when new or small – authorities are suspicious of you
  • Tiny and micro- community enterprises get little recognition at all from councils
  • VCSE sector has to work hard to get known- PR is crucial
  • Applying for tenders is time-consuming and complex; small and micro community enterprises can’t compete with the bigger players who have the resources and have built up trust with commissioners due to their longevity
  • No formal funding; often services are run part time on top of other activity to supplement. Many organisations are self-supporting  via donations, fund raising, renting out space to sub groups
  • Grants are restricted and there is much more competition for them- some groups pay experts to apply for funding
  • Level of funding has decreased but there is an expectation to do more
  • Small organisations only have immediate reach – no potential to expand
  • Hard to evidence the impact of your service- e.g. people making relationships with others
  • No guidance about the delivery of services to ensure quality
  • No knowledge of where to go to get timely advice to set up an enterprise – where do you start?
  • Getting the right advice about the constitution of a new service
  • Independent services have to follow recommendations from evidence based reports e.g. To successfully support people around falls prevention, NHS suggest a 12 week programme but NHS only actually provide a 6 week programme. Independent services are expected to deliver the full service
  • Wasting time coming to meetings to provide information for statutory organisations- but rarely  see the outcome
  • Barriers where English isn’t the first language- people from smaller communities need more hands on help
  • Accessing appropriate policies and space
  • The voluntary sector can be so slow- no use of the accelerator model as seen in the business world. The sector needs to be more vibrant/ share knowledge in different ways via virtual forums etc.

What could government do to remove those barriers?

  • Make joint funding ( health and social care) available
  • Support the culture change of health to understand the impact of the VCSE sector; promote the sector to all in creative ways
  • Provide better advice of where to go for help at the start- up stage; provide more space for start- ups
  • Reduce the bureaucracy for the VCSE sector to get into institutions e.g. schools
  • Health and social care sector to be encouraged to work together
  • Encourage social prescriptions etc. to the VCSE sector- enable services to be used even where there is no contract with statutory service
  • Increase the uptake of personal health budgets- use stories to encourage people to use them.
  • Provide more support for preventative services even where a charge is made
  • There needs to be more transparency at the local level-  accurate information is required for the public of what services are available
  • Remove the 20% Corporation Tax for not for profit organisations
  • Encourage and support the voluntary sector to use more electronic developments (e.g. apps)

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