Here in Lincolnshire we have developed the Voluntary Sector Engagement Team (VET) Having established a Terms of Reference for the group at a very early stage we continue to meet monthly as a steering group.
Further to this, wider representation has been sought from across the voluntary sector with much success, for attendance at workshops in which we have been able to determine the design principles of VET including the sign off of our MoU.
A letter has been sent to seek a financial contribution, initially from the medium to large organisations involved to ensure future financial sustainability, the ability to make a contribution does not determine or exclude involvement. This has received a positive response with financial commitments being made.
VET meetings are always attended by at least two members of the statutory sector representing both the health and care sectors.
Representatives of VET have met with the lead for the Lincolnshire ICS to discuss the key developments of VET where we laid out three key ‘asks’ which were agreed to, they were:
- Agreement of a process to discuss the VET MoU with the statutory sector
- Consideration of how to ensure VET are engaged with the statutory sector in taking the Long Term Local Plan forward
- Financial Support for VET – to match the contributions made from within the voluntary sector
The Chair and Deputy Chair of VET have been invited to the Joint Working Executive Group (JWEG) which will meet monthly and has been developed by the leaders of Health and Care in Lincolnshire to discuss joint executive arrangements and joint working. The initial meeting is to be facilitated by the LGA.
We have been asked to attend a workshop on the ICS Workforce development toolkit – Growing the Health and Care Workforce/Future Roles and Development/Third sector/Volunteers/Patients.
VET has established an information portal website at:
- Domain name was decided by democratic process
was developed at approximately 10% of normal website development cost by
involving skills form existing partners
- Maintenance and updating the site continues involving VET partners and volunteers within their organisation, with appropriate resource
- Active participants at engagement meetings are able to opt in to a mailing list from the site, with an auto-generated news bulletin sent every Thursday to keep members informed and updated. Currently there are 19 organisations receiving this information.
- Site also shows information of steering group meetings and relevant notes, published in the public domain for additional transparency
Further work to widen our engagement across the voluntary and community sectors continues with plans for a conference to widen knowledge and involvement in April 2020
Case study example: How building relationships at the system level has facilitated sustainable partnership working
At a national level, recent legislation (e.g. Health and Social Care Act 2012, Care Act 2013, Five Year Forward View, NHS Long Term Plan, Prevention in the 2020s consultation) recognises and promotes the role VCSE organisations play in improving health, wellbeing and care outcomes. The accelerator site in Lincolnshire provides an important opportunity at a local level for the VCSE to come together to increase understanding of the services and support offered by the sector; and to be recognised by the statutory sector as an essential partner in the decision-making and delivery of health and care services going forward.
The issues we faced
From a statutory perspective the VCSE is varied and complex and it can be difficult to know where to start and how to navigate the various organisations with a footprint or interest in health and care. VET (the Voluntary Engagement Team) was established to ‘bring together’ various VCSE groups and networks from across Lincolnshire to fully understand what each organisation does and how the VCSE might work together with a cohesive and defined purpose in partnership with the STP. Through the accelerator work we want the VCSE – through VET – to have a clearer voice and be a partner in the decision-making and delivery of health and care services in Lincolnshire.
The actions we took
- Provide different forums and platforms for the VCSE in Lincolnshire to come together and be a part of VET. This includes a dedicated website ‘Lincolnshire’s Voluntary Sector Portal’ (https://lincsvoluntarysectorportal.org.uk/) and a series of consultations and events. VET has developed a culture of working with all VCSE organisations that wish to participate to shape its offer.
- A steering group of 14 VCSE organisations came together to draft a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) – this contains some initial principals/themes setting out how the VCSE will work together and sets out VET’s relationship with the statutory sector. VET is sharing the MoU and consulting on its contents with VCSE organisations across Lincolnshire.
- Developed a brand: ‘VET’ (Voluntary Engagement Team).
- Drawing on 1-3 to manage the day-to-day running of VET (e.g. website, meetings), to begin to coordinate a work programme (in conjunction with the MoU) and represent the VCSE collective at statutory meetings.
The work undertaken by VET to date has provided an emerging mandate for how the VCSE might work together and deliver better outcomes for people in the context of health and care in Lincolnshire.
Representatives from the statutory sector (e.g. NHS, Local Authority) are invited and attend and participate in VET meetings and events.
The statutory sector recognises VET and has invited representatives to become more substantively involved in the health and care system and its strands of work. Some examples include: the STP Stakeholder Board, Integrated Community Care Programme, Lincolnshire Co-operative Board, Integrated Neighbourhood Working, Integrated Personal Commissioning, Local Workforce Action Board (LWAB) working group and STP workshops (e.g. workforce readiness assessment).
Whilst the majority of VCS organisations have been very positive about this development we have experienced some challenge from organisations who would prefer different approach to the brokering of the partnership. The large geographical and complex statutory governance nature of Lincolnshire, with 8 local authorities and 7 NHS organisations, has made it slightly more complex and time consuming to negotiate a way forward than would have been the case in areas with a simpler statutory governance structure.
It takes time to bring the VCSE sector together – particularly in a sparse rural/coastal county like Lincolnshire – but this is important in getting to know fully what different organisations do, how they wish to get involved in VET and to identify new opportunities to collaborate.