City & Hackney has a hugely diverse VCSE, with over 2500 organisations with a combined income of nearly £4.7billion employing over 7000 people and utilising many more volunteers to offer a huge range of interventions.
Embedded in their communities, values based with trust at the heart of what they do, VCSE organisations are often set up to meet urgent unmet need, and many go on to become specialist providers, pioneering service development in their field. Services are person centred, and services users are often centrally involved in planning. VCSE organisations use imaginative ways to deliver services and work with those other services find ‘hard to reach’.
The Covid-19 crisis has shown how agile and responsive the VCSE can be, often first to re-organise to respond to needs of the most vulnerable in the community.
Locally there are long established networks and representation arrangements which mean lots of organisations and people can be mobilised to be part of the thinking, delivery and improvement of health & care services, as well as providing community insight for horizon scanning and prioritisation. These networks can be the key to delivering important messages too – evident in the current work with Public Health on Test and Trace.
The energy, skill and reach of these VCSE organisations could work to complement public sector services – but often we are not making the connections, and not resourcing the organisations to flourish.
Work was happening to make these connections, for example with the proposed VCSE Enabler Workstream, the engagement work through the Neighbourhood Model and plans for joining the Neighbourhood and Care Alliance. And this has been accelerated through the pandemic response, where in some areas, transactional relationships have been replaced overnight with full collaboration and partnership– showing the potential for different ways of working across the system.
I am also very, very grateful to the existing voluntary and community sector in Hackney, one of the strongest in the UK. These groups are rising to this challenge (the pandemic), and we are doing everything we can to support them.