The Voluntary Sector: adding a certain Spice

David Russell, Head of Policy, Spice

Most people in our communities do not spend time pondering public service reform and which organisation or service is funded from which source. They want healthy and happy lives for themselves and the people they care about. For us this is a key to how we plan and design our work and is central to the way we aim to work with public services and would like public services to work with us.

Developing reciprocal relationships

As a small social enterprise we work hard at partnerships and in fact deliver none of our programmes alone. We work to secure partnerships that are built on the expertise and resources of several partners using all our strengths to create a new or revitalised ‘front end’ in communities. We currently have partnerships with County and District councils, CCGs, private sector businesses, hundreds of voluntary sector organisations, a Police and Crime Commissioner and several infrastructure bodies. We work to enable them to engage with their service users and the wider public in ways that promote greater equality and reciprocal relationships and eventually will transform outcomes. Our Time Credit systems also encourage people to move between these systems more freely, overcoming ingrained problems such as social determinants of health and more straightforward financial barriers.

Innovation and disruption

For us there is no other way to work. We have been continually enthused by working with councils and the NHS, by their openness to ideas and innovation, and by our ability to experiment through being in partnership with them. Small voluntary sector organisations like ourselves are uniquely placed to develop these new ways of working, infiltrating systems and empowering citizens to demand more of what really matters to them. Public services, in our experience, enjoy this ‘disruption’ especially when we are able to demonstrate the impact it can achieve and we would like to see more focus on infrastructure funding for this type of approach.

Time Credits

A really good example of this is our work in Haringey where we are integrating Time Credits across the substance misuse recovery system with the council, St Mungo’s Broadway and a range of other clinical and social services. This project embeds Time Credits across the very diverse service system as a method to integrate asset based working and coproduction across the system. In just over a year we have seen over 5000 hours of time contributed by people receiving drug and alcohol services. They are giving time to coproduce many elements of the service such as delivering training and support to each other in a recovery college, providing induction and peer support advice and to form new support groups. They are then able to spend the Time Credits earned at voluntary, public and private sector organisations across the wider community, for example local leisure centres, adult education, theatres, ice skating and across our London partners such as Tower of London and St Paul’s Cathedral. We are also seeing new changes in how the service is planned and delivered which are exciting staff and managers.

For us the role of organisations like ourselves is unique and we look forward to seeing a new energy for shared working at a greater scale in ways that reflect the lives people lead, rather than the individual problems they face. We have shown this can happen and now it’s time to scale it up.

If you have an example of innovative service delivery or want to submit other evidence to the VCSE Review you can do so here

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