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Voluntary and Community Sector Assembly
Bi-Monthly Update 
August 2013 

Work of the VCSA Board

The VCS Assembly Board has been holding additional meetings over the last few months to progress a number of different projects and to allow time to learn more about partnership opportunities in Shropshire. Recent areas of focus have included:
  • Work with Shropshire Council and partners to support the locality commissioning approach.
  • A focus on the activity taking place to engage people in the development of health outcomes for future planning and strategy development (led by Shropshire CCG, Shropshire Together and the Health and Wellbeing Board).
  • The development of new partnerships to support the work of the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership.   
The VCS Assembly Board last met on 17th July - Minutes of the Board meetings are available on the website.  Please see:

Community Business Partnerships 

The Community Business Partnership (CBP) has evolved from work done with Extended Partnerships in 2012.  During the consultancy period a number of activities were conducted including research surrounding the demand for voluntary sector organisations to build partnerships with the private sector.  The results of the consultation showed substantial evidence which highlighted the necessity of developing a CBP.  The CBP will promote and strengthen business links with the voluntary and community sector and will have many benefits for the community, VCS and private sector including:
  • Opportunities for professional and personal staff development, engagement and team building
  • Giving businesses a competitive advantage by demonstrating commitment to community investment and how to demonstrate added social value
  • Sharing and learning on good Corporate Social Responsibility practice
  • A focal point for brokerage of employee volunteering plus many more. 
In order to develop the CBP the VCSA asked for submissions of interest from VCS partnership bodies to lead and develop this piece of work, the VCSA will merely oversee the project.  The successful tender was from Impact Consultancy and SPC, they will begin work on this project soon – look out for future updates!

Shropshire Compact Update

The Compact Review Group met on 14th June and agreed the completion of the draft Compact which has now been issued for comments with an accompanying survey which is designed to obtain feedback on the draft Compact. The survey will also gauge the state of relationships between the VCS and public sector in Shropshire and provide a baseline for future monitoring.  The consultation period has already begun and will run for a total of 12 weeks towards the end of September 2013 when the Compact group will meet again to review feedback and consider a draft dispute process.
Representatives from the Public Sector, Fire and Housing have been invited to join the group at the next meeting in October.  These contacts have resulted from a report to the Leaders Board where support was offered from the majority of partners.  A priority featuring in the Compact Group’s draft implementation plan is to roll out across public sector partners, communication and awareness raising.
The group have also completed a Compact Memorandum of Understanding to clearly set out the underlying principles supporting the Shropshire Compact.  It was signed by Shropshire Council, Shropshire CCG and the VCS Assembly at the Annual Assembly on 24th April 2013.
Here is the link to our Compact Survey if you haven’t already filled it in! Thank you for your support!
Building Health Partnerships
Building Health Partnerships continues to develop in Shropshire with support from IVAR (Institute of Voluntary Action Research) and NAVCA (National Association of Voluntary and Community Action). Sonia Roberts (VCS Lead) and Bharti Patel-Smith (Clinical Commissioning Group Lead) recently reported progress to Shropshire’s Health and Wellbeing Board.
A key area of work emerging from the partnership work taking place between the CCG, VCS Assembly and Shropshire Providers Consortium is a new information based project. The project is exploring available sources of information concerning voluntary sector services (such as the community directory, self help pages and other local databases) and working to understand how these may be combined and developed further for the benefit of patients, services and commissioners.
The next Building Health Partnership workshop is planned for 23rd September. It will take the form of an expert learning session. Expert support will be brought in to assist in the development of Shropshire’s Building Health Partnerships action plan, proving specialist support and challenge to assist members of the group in the project design. Look out for more information on this next time.
Building Health Partnerships has also led to a new joint project between the VCSA and CCG. The project will work to support VCS organisations in partnering with GP practices to better support the most vulnerable patients who could benefit from voluntary sector and community services. All VCS Assembly members have been contacted with this opportunity. GP practices included in the project are those without a GP Community and Care Coordinator in place. The closing date for expressions of interest is 13th September, after which organisations will be contacted with more information and the matching process will begin.
For background information on Building Health Partnerships see our webpage:

Forums of Interest Update 

Impact Networks
VCSA Forums of Interest are set to lead the way on Impact Networks; a useful platform to offer a way of generating social value through their focus on establishing outcomes.  Shropshire is unique in that it has 16 VCS Forums of Interest already established as part of the Shropshire VCSA, this avoids creating an Impact Network on a blank canvas.
Employ with Conviction
Shropshire Criminal Justice Forum will be hosting a free event in September aimed at employers from local businesses, public sector and voluntary and community sector organisations. The event which has been aptly titled “Employ with Conviction” endeavours to highlight the benefits which employing people with a criminal conviction can have for the employer, the community and the individual.   The team arranging the event involves a number of organisations including the Probation Trust, Imagematch, YSS, DWP and colleagues at Shropshire Council.  The event will attempt to persuade employers to reflect on their policy towards the employment of ex-offenders and the team believe that Employ with Conviction will be successful in achieving this outcome.
The event is to be held at Willowdene Farm, a rehabilitation centre near Bridgnorth on 20th September 2013 and will entail:
·         A video interview with Philip Dunne MP
·         Keynote speeches from industry professionals including Welfare Manager, Dennis Phillips from The Timpson Foundation and Karen Walker, Resourcing Manager from Greggs Bakers.
·         A great opportunity to network with representatives from the public, private and voluntary and community sector.
·         A chance to look around facilities at Willowdene Farm
There are very limited spaces for this event so those who wish to attend are encouraged to book their place as soon as possible via the event’s Eventbrite page:

Do you use twitter? Help promote this event by using #employwithconviction 
Digital Advocates 
Get Shropshire Online have recently been recruiting Digital Champions (DC); these volunteers will give up their time to share skills and knowledge to enthuse other's to experience the interest or to use technology in Shropshire. For more information on Get Shropshire Online’s Digital Champions visit
As part of the work undertaken by Get Shropshire Online, Social Media surgeries have been set up by VCS partnership body, Shropshire Infrastructure Partnership (SIP).  Get Shropshire Online is supporting SIP to roll out this form of volunteering across the County.
Here is some more information about how SIP are delivering support throughout Shropshire…
Community Capacity Builder Project
According to a recent statistic aired on BBC Radio Shropshire by Martha Lane Fox, the founder of Race Online, which is now GoON Shropshire currently has 50,000 people who are not accessing the internet. That’s approximately 17% of the population. Our aim is to reduce this statistic by 2% ! We are challenging the county to help us achieve this goal and help support 800 people.
Using the internet will enable you to
·         Stay in touch with family and friends
·         Save time & money
·         Have fun
·         Find information
·         Learn more
·         Find work
For further information about the benefits of being online visit:

Challenge Shropshire
The NEW Task for Get Shropshire Online is to support more people and communities to use the internet and learn more about the information and tools that are available to them.
We are now offering: Free Internet Training!
• Would your local community benefit from learning how to get online?
• Would your social group, committee, staff, volunteers or service users benefit from learning how to send and receive emails?
If the answer is YES! Give Get Shropshire Online a call! We have a mobile internet connection and laptops that we can bring to you! The training we provide is comprehensive, allowing us to support first time users to use email, get online and learn about how the internet can help you in work and at home. We are also able to offer those who wish to learn more the chance to experience online shopping and learn more about social media through a progression course.
We can deliver the training to your social group, members or staff and we can also support you to become a Digital Champion for your own community or to support your service users! Please take a look at the online training we will be using  It’s simple just Create an Account in the top right corner of the home page and follow the instructions on the screen and quote our Centre ID: 3451 801. It will only take a couple of minutes to register and it’s all FREE!
To find out more information about who we are and what we do, visit our website: or call Lisa Darkin on: 01743 342177

Locality Commissioning Update

Over the last few months we have been keeping members up to date with the work taking place on the locality commissioning model in Shropshire. Locality commissioning seeks to: 
  • Embed collaborative working at the local level, based on local need, local demand and local provision of policies, programmes and services.
  • Assist in making the best use of available resources (working to best manage reductions in public sector budgets).
  • Support communities to design a shared vision, and to gather the information and resources needed to become commissioning ready.
Church Stretton was the first community in Shropshire to adopt the new approach with a focus on three priority themes:
  • Living independently
  • Quality public services that people value and are proud of
  • Supporting people into work and in turn creating an economically vibrant community
Since the work has begun, leaders have joined together to discuss the impact of the different ways of designing and delivering services in Church Stretton and have explored ways in which the work could be refined and strengthened.  It was also agreed that the work should be extended to other areas in the county and the locality commissioning model is also being implemented in the following areas with a particular focus on certain themes:
  • Whitchurch - supporting older people to live independently in the community, and if they need to go to hospital, supporting their rehabilitation back to the community
  • Shrewsbury (Monkmoor) - giving children the best start in life
  • Oswestry - reducing substance misuse
  • Oswestry - supporting and promoting economic growth
  • Church Stretton - providing further support and training to prevent older people falling and, in turn, reduce calls to the ambulance service to assist people after a fall.
Work has recently started in Wem and Craven Arms as well.  For more information about Commissioning and Shropshire Council visit:,-better-value/

EU Funding, Social Inclusion and the VCS

Over the last 2 months the VCS Assembly has been working to lead on a social inclusion work stream on behalf of the Local Enterprise Partnership.  Working with VCS representatives from Telford & Wrekin and Herefordshire, three workshops have been organised to promote understanding of changes in EU funding and the introduction of the Structural and Investment Fund; to identify social inclusion priorities; and to determine the main approaches for meeting those local priorities. The last event takes place on 10th September after which a report will be developed for consideration in the development of a strategy for the Marches LEP.
Key areas of discussion to date include:
  • Understanding the nature of those who find it hardest to find employment – the obstacles to accessing work and causes of social exclusion.
  • Trends and growing areas of concern such as the impact of public sector cuts and changes in benefits under the banner of welfare reform.
  • The need for support for those on low incomes and those in employment who remain in poverty.
  • Changes in employment practice and how nationally identified issues such as zero contract hours are impacting at the local level.
  • The nature of Shropshire and how its socio-economic profile will influence work to promote social inclusion.
  • How other themes being explored by the LEP impact on social inclusion such as transport, skills, and IT infrastructure.
For information on the meetings held to date and for background reading and resources see:

Image from VCS Funding Event at Craven Arms Community Centre in August.
VCSA Surveys

Membership Survey

Over at the VCSA we have been working hard to put together a new way to collate, update and refresh our members’ information so we can communicate with them more effectively and efficiently in the future. In order for us to complete this successfully and consistently we have set up an online questionnaire via Survey Monkey asking members to update their contact and organisation information. The Survey Monkey questionnaire will make this process quicker and easier as it is a simple form to fill in and completed form will come straight to back to the VCSA.  A number of the questions asked are quite specific to the geographical areas which our members work in and who exactly they provide services for.  This information will be vital to locality commissioning as it will help us to identify those voluntary and community services operating in specific areas defining who is delivering services to a target group. 
 It is very important that we collate all of our members’ updated information before 9th September so to complete the questionnaire just follow the link below to get started!
 Here’s the link:

Compact Survey
Over the next 12 weeks we will be running a consultation on the Shropshire Compact. We would be very grateful if you could spend a little of your time completing our survey.

What is the Compact?
The Compact is an agreement that sets out the ‘rules of engagement’ for how the public sector and the county’s Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) groups and organisations will work together for the benefit of the people they serve. The Compact is a way of working setting out agreed values and principles.

How is the Compact Changing?
The current Compact applies to Shropshire Council and all voluntary and community groups and organisations working within the county. Work has taken place to draft a new Compact that can be applied more widely across the public sector. The CCG and Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office have been actively involved and other public sector bodies have also expressed an interest in getting more actively involved. The Compact is particularly important for anyone working in partnership with the VCS.

Why is it important to complete the Compact Survey?
We would like as many people as possible to take part in our survey, to reflect the diversity in partnership arrangements between the VCS and public sector. Please contribute your comments and suggestions to ensure we are able to formally agree a robust Compact that will act as a tool to assist us all in our work.

Completing the survey…
Before you complete the survey, you will need to read the Compact which is attached to this email.
Then when you are ready follow the link below to begin the survey!
Thank you for taking the time to complete the survey and helping us develop a new Shropshire Compact!

Watch out for the Recession Survey
Each year the VCS Assembly conducts a survey into the impact of recession on local voluntary and community sector groups and organisations.  Many of you may remember answering questions that cover issues such as the impact of the recession on finances, services users, changes in volunteering and how the VCS groups and your organisation responds to change and financial challenges.  This year we have added a few extra questions which will look at employees, increase in vulnerable groups in the community, welfare reform and accommodation.
The results of the survey will be collated into a report for Shropshire Councils Scrutiny Committee; in previous years Shropshire Council have found the information collected from this survey vital for an insight into the current position of the Voluntary and Community Sector.
To read more about the last recession survey click here.
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