What we’ve heard so far

Alex Fox, CEO Shared Lives Plus and Chair of the VCSE Review

Since August we’ve been busy meeting with the VCSE sector to gauge your views on our consultation questions.  Across the country at face-to-face meetings, in online events and through our two consultations we’ve heard some really thoughtful contributions.  We want to share here some of the key messages we’ve received so far.  Remember, there’s still time to contribute views and shape the future of health and social care as the consultation closes on 6 November. 

Online consultations

Let’s start with responses to our two online consultations.  The first focuses on the Voluntary Sector Investment Fund run by the Department of Health (on behalf of NHS England and Public Health England).  The second looks at the wider funding landscape and the partnerships that exist between the statutory and VCSE sectors in health and social care.

So who has engaged? For the Voluntary Sector Investment Programme, the majority of replies have come from small and medium sized organisations. They are mainly frontline charities, grass roots community groups or social enterprises, representing local areas with some regional coverage.  We’ve also received feedback from infrastructure organisations and some health commissioners, such as clinical commissioning groups and NHS trusts.

The response to the second, wider consultation has come mainly from micro to medium sized organisations representing a spread of voluntary, community and social enterprise, both frontline and infrastructure. They are active at a local, regional and national level. We would welcome input from more commissioners on this consultation as their views are equally important for our recommendations.

Key messages

What key messages are emerging? The principal message is that what we heard earlier this year holds true for many of the VCSE organisations who have responded.  This consensus is reassuring but we need to move beyond agreement to solutions and promising practice.  The feedback we have received is helping us to achieve this.

Voluntary Sector Investment Programme

So far there has been unanimous support for the continuation of the national, centrally funded programme and our proposal to streamline the three existing arrangements into two: a funding programme for frontline projects and a revamped strategic partner programme.

You have told us that priority for project funding should be given to those that (in order of those you felt were most important): demonstrate impact on health inequalities; scale up existing work which has been shown to have impact; and support innovation. These elements are already part of the existing scheme so there is support to build on the work carried out since 2009.

The importance of developing and maintaining strategic relationships between the VCSE sector and the Department of Health, NHS England and Public Health England was acknowledged but there was debate about the best way to do this. We have provided space for people to explain their answers so we will be able to understand and reflect the range of views in our recommendations.

Discussion about challenges and solutions to better investment and partnerships

We have been sent some great case studies of promising practice which illustrate what is working. This includes examples about integrated commissioning, social prescribing, strategic engagement, working in partnership to tackle health inequalities and core funding from trusts.

There is lots of consensus about the need to treat the VCSE sector as equal planning partners, not just contractors and a few examples of what this looks like on the ground.  There are promising examples of using the Social Value Act through, for instance, including social impact as a percentage of the scoring of tenders.  Few believe there are any magic bullets and there is plenty of nuance in what we are hearing.  For instance, social prescribing has been highlighted as a way of building new partnerships between primary health and the VCSE sector, but in some areas, health colleagues expect to be able to refer for free, whereas in others, there is recognition that the money needs to follow the referral route.  Similarly, there is a real opportunity to embed volunteering and social action across the health and care system, but only if commissioners understand the costs of volunteering programmes.

We are keen to receive further evidence and reports of evaluated work from VCSE organisations, commissioners, funders and academics to inform our recommendations. If you feel that the reflections above don’t reflect the views of your organisation or part of the sector, please send us your views. These can be sent direct to the Programme Manager, Angie Macknight or via post (NCVO, Society Building, 8 All Saints Street, London N1 9RL). It is vitally important that our recommendations are supported by practical examples of existing good practice so if your work is relevant, please get in touch.

Regular updates

We will be updating you on what we hear from our face-to-face Have Your Say events, workshops at existing events and our online lives chats and webinars. Also, check out our guest blogs for some great contributors from across health and social care. Follow us on Twitter at @VCSEreview.

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