Live discussion: Local partnerships and infrastructure – 20 October, 15.00-16.00



Join us 15.00-16.00 on 20 October for a live discussion on local partnerships and infrastructure. You’ll have the opportunity to pose questions for the panellists, debate and put forward your own experiences and suggestions.

All thoughts will feed into the VCSE Review which is helping to shape the future funding and partnership decisions made by the Department of Health, NHS England and Public Health England.

20 October 2015


The VCSE sector is a crucial partner for statutory health and care services, providing a voice for service users and helping to design and deliver services.

VCSE infrastructure organisations play a vital, but often hidden role, in linking the two sectors by connecting VCSE organisations, strengthening their capability and capacity and ensuring effective two-way communication between the statutory and the VCSE sectors

Discussion points

The discussion will focus on two key issues:

  • How can statutory and VCSE sector organisations work more effectively together to develop services and policies?
    This will include questions on relationships between the VCSE and statutory sectors, co-production and making best use of community assets
  • The future role of VCSE infrastructure. This will cover issues such as funding, demonstrating impact and how infrastructure organisations can adapt to the new operating environment


Jane Hartley, VONNE

Jane has many years of experience working in the NE voluntary sector primarily with a focus on health & wellbeing. She has run a local infrastructure organisation and led a significant service provider organisation Pioneering Care Partnership.

Prior to becoming Chief Executive of VONNE she worked as a consultant supporting VCSE organisations across the North East and is a Director of My Life Plus Community Interest Company delivering programmes to support to people with long term health conditions. Jane is a Trustee of the Greggs Foundation, and Artworks in Teesdale, a local arts charity focussing on the landscape.

Dave Forrest, Volunteer Centre Bradford

Dave Forrest is the CEO of a Volunteer Centre in Bradford, Yorkshire. He has recently set up a new CIO which brings together five infrastructure charities, including 3 CVS in Bradford. In addition he manages the local Community Foundation which has distributed £1 million in grants to 200 groups. Dave coordinates the Yorkshire region’s Volunteer Centre network.

Previously Dave has worked for four national charities supporting volunteering infrastructure: NCVO, Volunteering England, Mentoring and Befriending Foundation, and Business in the Community. He led the UK’s first youth exchange to Poland and has spoken at events for the British Council in Helsinki, Germany and Malta.

Paul Winyard, Compact Voice

Paul started his voluntary sector career at NCVO nearly six years ago. During this time he’s led the organisation’s policy work on welfare-to-work, volunteering, social value and commissioning, and procurement regulations. He is currently managing the Compact Voice team in their work promoting effective partnership working between charities and the public sector.

Questions and answers

Post your questions in the comment section below and join us on 20 October 15.00-16.00 to see live responses from our panellists.


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Nick Davies Nick was NCVO's public services manager until March 2017. He is also a trustee of the South London Relief in Sickness Fund.

39 Responses to Live discussion: Local partnerships and infrastructure – 20 October, 15.00-16.00

  1. Nick Davies Nick Davies says:

    Good afternoon and thank you for joining us for today’s live chat on local partnerships and infrastructure. We are joined by Jane Hartley from VONNE, Dave Forrest from Volunteer Centre Bradford and Paul Winyard of Compact Voice.

    This is an interactive discussion so if you’ve dropped in and have some thoughts please post a comment. Remember to keep refreshing the page to see new comments.

    I’d like to kick things off by asking our panellists what they think makes for a successful local relationship between the statutory sector working in health and care and the VCSE sector?

    • Paul Winyard says:

      Good and effective cross-sector relationships always begin with dialogue. Getting key partners in a room together to discuss mutual challenges and opportunities for partnership working is a good first step. If your area has a local Compact there is usually a working or steering group where these discussions can be kick-started.

  2. Dave Forrest says:

    Hello from Bradford
    Looking forward to the discussions, here in Bradford we have supported the Council’s libraries service where 7 branch libraries are now entirely run by volunteers. We provided volunteer managers training to staff and helped recruit and broker volunteers. Most libraries have increased opening hours and the volunteers are expanding services and providing much more IT support, this is increasingly important as more services go online.

  3. Dave Forrest says:

    Here we have been working with the local NHS Care Trust on a new volunteering strategy. We have supported the strategy development from the outset working with the NHS Directors and also with key VCSE partners such as the local carers charity. The Strategy is already launched with a volunteer manager in place and already new volunteering roles are established across the Trust. Of course it works alongside a local Compact refresh too which all partners have contributed to, the Compact insists that expenses for volunteers are reimbursed for example.

    • Paul Winyard says:

      This chimes with what we often hear. Getting ‘buy-in’ from senior staff, including elected members, chief execs and directors, is key to advancing VCS / public sector initiatives. This has been particularly important in areas that have a developed social value agenda.

    • Nick Davies Nick Davies says:

      It’s fantastic that you have been able to work on this collaboratively. Do you have any tips for other organisations that would like to develop a relationship with their local NHS Care Trust?

  4. Jane Hartley says:

    Hi I am happy to be part of today’s panel as I am part of the VCSE Review Advisory Group involving both statutory and voluntary sector representatives and we are keen to ensure we get as much feedback as possible to inform the final report. Jane

  5. Nick Davies Nick Davies says:

    We’ve heard a lot about the role that the VCSE sector can play in the co-design of services, providing a voice for marginalised communities. I’d like to ask how can we ensure voluntary organisations are able to work in equal partnership with statutory sector in the design of services or local plans?

    • Paul Winyard says:

      Mutual respect and understanding is obviously vital for an equitable relationship. The principles of the Compact are a useful launchpad for building strong partnerships. Again dialogue is key, as is making a strong case for why the VCS is a valuable partner in service delivery and design: be prepared to tell your story!

  6. Dave Forrest says:

    Hello Paul
    We have found the Compact Voice “engaging with” guides extremely helpful, the examples of work elsewhere are really useful. As a result of good partnership work with colleagues we have been commissioned by the local CCG’s to provide a basic social prescribing project. However one area we do struggle is support from the CCG’s on funding local volunteering infrastructure support, we have evidence of need but its never seen a priority, despite the fact that most of the social prescribing work is actually delivered by volunteers.

    • Paul Winyard says:

      Great to hear you’ve found the guides useful, Dave. Struggling for recognition and support from public bodies is a recurring theme, particularly in an increasingly tight funding environment. Making a strong case for how your support can provide future savings is obviously important, but unfortunately short-term savings can often preoccupy public bodies with tight budgets! That said solid evidence and good case studies, presented to key – often senior – decision makers, can prove effective.

  7. Jane Hartley says:

    VONNE recently worked with ADASS ( Association of Directors of Social Services) to co-produce and event aimed at the VCSE exploring the impact of the Care Act and how the VCSE can be a part of delivering the new framework. One of the key examples cited was a collaboration between Darlington Borough Council and Darlington Association on Disability where they both identified the need for trust between partners and not being afraid to admit they were learning about the new operating environment together. The need for a ‘safe space’ to explore new ways of working was seen as important.

    • Nick Davies Nick Davies says:

      That’s a great example Jane. Do you have any thoughts on how other areas can best produce a safe space for frank conversations?

  8. Dave Forrest says:

    Hello Jane
    In response to your question Nick the key with the Care Trust was that the initiative was led by the Care Trust Board. And I think strong relationships helps too. I am part of a Care Trust working party which has met monthly for the last year to this has helped build relationship with key stakeholders.

    We also asked the CEO to volunteer for an afternoon for Volunteers Week, he played football with mentally ill service users but it really valuable in showing the benefits of this volunteer led activity which really improved the lives of the clients.

  9. Jane Hartley says:

    I have been involved in more than one social prescribing project including Ways to Wellness which has recently launched in Newcastle West funded through a Social Impact Bond model and developed in collaboration with the CCG. However even though this project has had a lot of CCG involvement and support there is still a disconnect with a number of local GP’s who perhaps don’t understand or engage with the notion of social prescribing or indeed the VCSE as a whole. I would agree that there needs to be recognition that social prescribing activities need to be resourced in addition to the signposting elements of social prescribing.

  10. Dave Forrest says:

    Jane this ‘safe space’ to explore new ways of working is invaluable. Here we are entering into a year long celebration of volunteering for 2016 with key strategic partners and part of it is supporting an ongoing dialogue with the local authority and the VCSE on developing services in very challenging economic circumstances. Here we have an assembly of elected VCSE representatives who sit on the Local Authorities strategic partnerships.

  11. Nick Davies Nick Davies says:

    I’m interested in what role panellists and others think infrastructure can play in partnership working? Are there any good examples in your area?

  12. Jane Hartley says:

    I think in answer to the safe space comment , we need to find ways to educate commissioners that procurement rules should not and do not prevent them from collaborative development work around shaping new services and solutions with VCSE partners. Too often, commissioners in local authorities are averse to a collaborative approach. Co-production is very much at the heart of the Care Act so we need to find ways of making it happen. In addition, using local Infrastructure partner organisations to support VCSE engagement in development of services can demonstrate a neutral and non biased approach.

  13. Dave Forrest says:

    Jane that is the exact issue here, the CCG will fund the information giving about the activity but not the activity itself. Our biggest struggle was aligning our open source database with the NHS computer system that the GP’s use. After a lot of technical support, GP’s can now directly access our VCSE social prescribing database from the NHS computer at their desks. Generally they have been very supportive and the CCG has just completed some internal volunteering awards which will hopefully raise the profile of the social prescribing service, the winner are inspirational so we are hoping that these real case studies will help influence greater participation in the social prescribing.

    • Paul Winyard says:

      The Community Intelligence Bursary (CIB) is a grant programme jointly funded by Tower Hamlets Healthwatch and Tower Hamlets CCG and supported by THCVS and Public Health. The aim of the bursary is to ensure that the needs and views of the local community, particularly those seldom heard, directly impacted on how services were designed, commissioned and delivered in the borough.

  14. Jane Hartley says:

    The local CCG in Stockton have developed a collaborative working partnership with Catalyst , the local Infrastructure organisation and working with Public Health developed a Health Initiative Grants Fund managed by catalyst which has initiated a number of programmes supporting people with long term conditions. An external SROI evaluation was also commissioned to identify the social return on investment and inform future commissioning intentions

    • Dave Forrest says:

      Hi Jane
      That is great we are also working here with the CCG’s on developing a small grants scheme. The idea of an externally produced SROI is a great idea as it reduces the burdens on smaller VCSE groups and also will provide vital evidence for future funding.

      In our last small grants round for Winter Warmth for older people we encouraged VCSE groups to supplement grants with private sector donations and also with volunteer support. This really helped groups think about delivering projects in different ways and also engaged private sector support such as distributing donated thermal products, engaging more volunteers, cash sponsorship from private sector companies to match fund grants and employee volunteers providing skills and time in decorating day care facilities for older people.

  15. Jane Hartley says:

    Dave that is good news, I think anything that can help clinicians understanding of the sector and the range of activities we deliver than can impact on health and wellbeing is great. I have also been asked to deliver a session at a Doctoral training event at Durham University as I believe we need to embed the understanding of the sector within GP training.

    • Dave Forrest says:

      That is really important, Bradford University has a volunteering module on every course, students can choose to do a volunteering module and get credit towards their course at the same time.

  16. Nick Davies Nick Davies says:

    We’ve heard that infrastructure organisations need support to demonstrate their impact. I’m interested to know the panellists thoughts. If they agree, what kind of support do they think would be most helpful?

    • Dave Forrest says:

      Our most challenging part of partnership working is with the LEP’s. The support from NCVO has been invaluable especially around ESIF, however all the LEP structures here are set up without strategic links to the VCSE. The latest ESIF round has been a particular challenge. I know some areas of the country where there has been much better VCSE engagement such as in the Sheffield City Region where the VCSE infrastructure is very engaged and organised and is leading a joint ESIF bid.

  17. Jane Hartley says:

    Hi I think we need to acknowledge the recent ‘Change for Good’ report from an Independent commission on the future of local infrastructure which recommended that local infrastructure orgs needed to better demonstrate their social value and economic contribution and communicate their impact to commissioners and others. Demonstrating impact is hard for infrastructure orgs but if we can draw on positive examples of where the input of the organisation has enabled an activity to happen which ultimately impacted on peoples health and wellbeing we need to do it. Having access to resources for independent evaluation always helps and being able to get a seat at the key strategic partner tables to get our message across on how we support communities.

  18. Nick Davies Nick Davies says:

    It’s clearly a very challenging funding environment out there and VCSE infrastructure organisations have seen some significant cuts. Does anyone have thoughts on how VCSE infrastructure can adapt?

    Perhaps the task is to incentivise commissioners to support VCSE infrastructure. If so, what’s the best way of doing this?

    • Paul Winyard says:

      Regarding incentivising commissioners to support VCS infrastructure, I would suggest it’s important to demonstrate how your expertise and connections to local groups with knowledge of marginalised and harder to reach groups can help them make savings through early action and preventative services. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, providing solid evidence of your value and impact is essential.

    • Dave Forrest says:

      We are very good at adapting to challenges here, as a Volunteer Centre over the last five years we are now seeing 300% more volunteers while the public funding has gone down 70%. We have managed to keep volunteer satisfaction level and have bridged the funding gap by using more volunteers to deliver our work, encouraging VCSE groups to “self serve” online and using touch screen monitors allowing volunteering to self register.

      Despite all this work commissioners to struggle to understand the impact of the volunteers.

      I think NCVO does a lot of work to increase profile of the sector and to showcase the support given.

      I think part of the solution is encouraging VCSE groups to use infrastructure support, In Leeds and Kirklees for example where groups get a Volunteering Kitemark accreditation this helps with local authority grant applications.

  19. Jane Hartley says:

    I think the best examples I can give are where an infrastructure organisation has built a positive and collaborative relationship with ‘health commissioners’ recognising that they are now a key player and that local authority funding is drying up. I think the sector as a whole needs to learn how to deliver ‘ How we can make your life easier and save the NHS money and make the money go further’ messages as many commissioners recognise now that there simply isn’t enough resource to support the increasing numbers of older people living longer with long term conditions so they know that they need to do things differently. A collective coherent ‘pitch’ to commissioners demonstrating the sector can be professional and demonstrating that local infrastructure bodies can act as a broker and quality assurance gateway to working and engaging with the sector is needed.

  20. The Exeter CVS Wellbeing Hub is a great partnership example, well worth a look:

  21. Dave Forrest says:

    Enjoyed chatting with you all and thank you to Nick for organising.

  22. Nick Davies Nick Davies says:

    Thanks to all the panellists for taking part today. This blog post will stay open to comments so please take the time to post if you have any thoughts. All responses will be fed into the VCSE Review.