Agenda item

Review on Helping to Increase Support/Capacity of the Voluntary Sector: Final Report

Report of the Acting Strategic Director, Communities and Environment


The Committee received the final report of the Review on Helping to Increase Support/Capacity of the Voluntary Sector.


Following its meeting in October 2018, the Committee agreed the scope for a review to help develop the understanding of the type of support required by Gateshead’s Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS), where it is needed most and why, and in the light of this, where the Council’s role, support and resources may be best focussed to maximise impact.  The aims of the review were agreed as:


·         establish the extent and nature of the types of support the Council currently provides to the VCS across a spectrum of service areas

·         how this activity is resourced and coordinated

·         assess the effectiveness of this Council support in helping the VCS address the needs of Gateshead residents.


The review comprised of four evidence gathering sessions.  Evidence was sought from internal council services, including Neighbourhood Management and Volunteering, Economic Development Service, Care Wellbeing and Learning Service, and externally funded partners, stakeholders and charitable trusts, Comfrey Project, Brighten Ryton Environmental Group, Dunston Family Church, Tyne and Wear Community Foundation, The Ballinger Trust and National Lottery Community Fund and Oasis Community Housing.


All of the sessions included presentations by each of the groups / organisations and a question and answer session.


Findings, issues and challenges arising from the review


·                         The review reaffirmed the need for a vibrant community and voluntary sector

in Gateshead that is supported and capable of meeting the challenges facing Gateshead’s residents in the future.

·                         There is a need to ensure longer term support is available from the Council

which cultivates relationships and reassures community and voluntary sector organisations that they can rely on the Council for advice and help.

·                         The community asset transfer programme has seen significant success in helping community organisations operate community facilities to deliver services for local residents.

·                         Need for dedicated points of contact within the Council – including key frontline services, particularly where the interface impacts directly on the Council and is a key purpose to the community organisation. This is required to ensure decisions can be made by the relevant service, relatively quickly – it also helps to build a positive working relationship.

·                         Where appropriate annual plans or agreements be put in place to be agreed

and endorsed by the Council – including assigned responsible officers for

specific activities, such as grounds maintenance as an example from the

evidence gathering. This should help provide greater clarity on what the

groups are doing, help inform the Council on decisions about deployment of

resources and assist with timetabling key decisions/permissions – allowing

the Group to have more accurate plans.

·                         Annual plan would facilitate greater synergy and timetabling of partnership

approach – would maximize windows of opportunity for works to be

undertaken (summer months, avoiding nesting season, etc)

·                         Always read the guidance thoroughly before applying – if in doubt get in


·                         Ensure the organisation and the project are eligible.

·                         Have all information required ready at the time of submission.

·                         Ensure accounts/bank statements are timely and accurate and unrestricted

reserves are beneath any eligibility threshold.

·                         Use data, local intelligence and consultation to demonstrate community

·                         needs (avoid duplication).

·                         Wherever possible try to get other funding to support your project.

·                         When Council and community efforts combine the synergy and impact can be fantastic (for example, coinciding cutting and strimming in cemetery)

·                         Speed/responsiveness of the Council – frustration with the time taken/delay in getting permissions/agreement to undertake works – sometimes legitimate due to legal process, sometimes multiple service involvement and sometimes staff sickness (as well as other things) – but could we be better?

·                         Perception of overbearing bureaucracy – particularly around Conservation

and Licencing issues experienced – legalities, consultation periods,

permissions, etc. Can this be mitigated with better information up front re

realistic timescales (for both parties)?

·                         The Council’s relationship/interface with (ethos towards) voluntary

organisations needs to reflect a partnership arrangement (to maximize joint

efficiency/shared resources and available skills, knowledge and capacity).

·                         Volunteers should be seen more as partners not as contractors or a threat to


·                         Is there need to train/brief Council staff (particularly those in key interface

positions) about how a better more productive relationship can be achieved?

·                         Remove any stigma, perceptions of job insecurity, etc) as above

·                         Review how the Council’s Insurance arrangements work for/with volunteer

activities – could this become more inclusive/less risk averse – redesigned  to accommodate such work not respond to request for the work (turn it around completely).

·                         Organisation/rigour of the Group and its monitoring of activity was praised

(and may be exclusive to Brighten Ryton currently) – whilst not necessarily

required to the level of Brighten Ryton it is food for thought for other

community organisations to become more organised and planned in approach

·                         Recruiting and retaining volunteers was still an issue for a number of

community groups across Gateshead, especially where specific skills are


·                         Securing funding is becoming an increasing challenge for many community

groups and charities across Gateshead.

·                         Specialist advice is required for a number of groups across the borough, in

particular governance, legal advice, business and financial planning, health

and safety to name some areas.

·                         Co-ordination between NCVS and Gateshead Council needs to continue to be managed to ensure the skills and expertise of the team compliments the work of the Neighbourhood Management and Volunteering Team and other support services

·                         This service hub approach is a central part of our future sustainability plans

for Basis@Gateshead – and we also see this model as being potentially

replicable across the NE: we are committed to it.

·                         This Basis model is helping us build the evidence base needed to show

external partners that delivering out of Basis@Gateshead is a more

successful and cost effective way of reaching those facing housing crisis

either at their crisis point, or in many cases before things get too bad.

·                         Basis is a great example of how the VCS can collaborate and integrate with

public services to reach the most vulnerable in our communities in a more

efficient and effective way.

·                         As staff from partners will be based at Basis@Gateshead we anticipate they will save costs of being based in their own premises, and less money and time will be wasted signposting vulnerable people to different services, locations and experts.


The following recommendations have been produced as a result of the evidence gathering sessions and feedback from the Committee over the course of the review.


Recommendation 1 – Commit to provide clear single points of contacts to

community organisations, and explore providing the autonomy to provide advice, support and definitive decisions as required.

Recommendation 2 – Encourage community organisations that the Council is

supporting to provide an annual plan, particularly relevant with Friends of or

environmental groups.

Recommendation 3 – Be clear and more transparent regarding Council fees and charges, so community organisations understand the costs and the reasons why the fees exists.

Recommendation 4 –Improve the relationships that exist between the Council

and the community and voluntary sector to encourage greater collaboration / joint working, addressing common challenges faced by residents, avoid duplication or competition and enable the Council to consider where best to invest its community development and financial resources.

Recommendation 5 – Seek ways to encourage community groups to work

together, support each other and share resources and ideas.

Recommendation 6 – Develop further the Council’s Volunteers Plan – Helping

Out - to ensure there is clarity about the roles of volunteers, the relationships with volunteers and paid employees.

Recommendation 7 – Assess the support required by volunteers to enable them to help out effectively, safely and with the knowledge, training, advice and relevant permissions – primarily aimed at volunteers that directly support

activities delivered with the Council and on Council property.

Recommendation 8 – Review the Council’s insurance arrangements to ensure

volunteer groups are adequately covered for the activities they are participating in and the system to obtaining cover is as efficient as possible.

Recommendation 9 – Focus the work of the Neighbourhood Management and

Volunteering team increase capacity across the community and voluntary sector to enable the securing funds from a range of sources rather than be dependent on the various forms of Council funding.

Recommendation 10 – Ensure the Council’s resources to support Gateshead’s communities are targeted in a way that ensures the activity delivered as a result of the funding will support Thrive.

Recommendation 11 – The Council will work proactively with external funding

partners, to secure investment and maximise opportunities to invest in


Recommendation 12 – Monitor the delivery of the contract to support the

Community and Voluntary Sector (currently held by Newcastle Council for

Voluntary Service) to ensure it delivers the advice, support and networking

required by the sector in partnership with the Council

Recommendation 13 – Within the current contract to support the Community and Voluntary Sector, continue to support the development of OurGateshead to ensure it provides the service required by Gateshead residents and the

community organisations represented on the website.

Recommendation 14 – Review the Gateshead Offer – which provides guidance on where to seek support for community and voluntary organisations in Gateshead and define its commitment to find the most effective way to define its relationship and support to the sector to deliver Thrive.

Recommendation 15 – Increase publicity and communications through all means possible to raise awareness, share and celebrate the fantastic range of activities that take place across Gateshead.

Recommendation 16 – In line with the Council’s Public Service Reform work,

implement further place based / community hub opportunities for collaborative

work between the Council, its partners and the community and voluntary sector.

Recommendation 17 – Retain the current capacity building resource, as outlined in evidence gathering session 1, within the Council to ensure the community and voluntary sector is adequately supported to meet the demands of Gateshead’s communities in the future.

Recommendation 18 – Continue to maintain and utilise the Community Asset

Transfer policy to encourage communities to help retain community assets and ensure the Cabinet Portfolio holder for Communities and Volunteers has the role and remit for this area.


RESOLVED -              That the final report be presented to Cabinet for consideration.


Supporting documents: