The report before Members detailed progress in implementing the Voluntary Sector Strategy 2015-18.
The report set out updates to the six key themes which were as follows:
Strengthening joint working arrangements between the Council and the sector
The Havering Compact was going from strength to strength and was now eighteen months old following its relaunch in November 2015. The Compact operated through an independently chaired managing steering group.
In October 2016, a pilot “health check” was sent out by the Council to 45 voluntary and community sector organisations working in Havering, in order to ascertain how best the Council could help and support the sector. Based on the results of this survey, several initiatives had been introduced.
As the Council had created links and built relationships with more voluntary and community groups operating in the borough, this year’s health check had been extended to around 150 local voluntary and community sector organisations and results were being evaluated at the current time.
Improving communications and access to information
The Compact e-bulletin continued to promote external funding opportunities, training and support services and good news stories of joint working / funding bids to share across the sector. Subscriptions currently sat at 1,804.
The Active Living e-bulletin also continued to be circulated monthly and was aimed at the 50+ audience in Havering. The purpose of the bulletin was to promote activities, events and opportunities to combat social isolation, encourage physical and mental health and wellbeing, and increase volunteering amongst older residents. The readership figure was just under six thousand
Between January and May 2017, the Voluntary and Community section of the Council’s website received 4,772 visitors, 3,258 of whom were unique visitors. The most popular section of the VCS website was the volunteering section, with 1,800 visitors in 5 months.
The Havering Volunteer Strategy 2016-2021 had been agreed by the Cabinet in December 2016. The Strategy set out five target outcomes and five objectives.
The 2016/17 financial year was the first full year of operation for the Havering Volunteer Centre (HVC), having (with the support of the Council) become the first Volunteer centre to open in London for six years.
The report included a summary of volunteer hours submitted to the HVC by various public, voluntary and community organisations across the borough.
Officers advised that they would be carrying out a community benefit assessment to assess the value of volunteers to the Council.
In response to a question relating to the recruitment of younger volunteers, officers replied that there were currently strong levels of support from the elderly and uniformed groups however the Council needed to be more active in promoting the wide range of opportunities to other groups possibly including visits to schools.
Commissioning processes and market positioning
During the last year, the Council’s Voluntary Sector Steering Group had agreed a standard approach to grant monitoring to be used by all services grant aiding voluntary and community sector organisations with £5,000 or more. This was designed to improve the consistency and robustness of monitoring, whilst not being disproportionately onerous for voluntary sector organisations.
Monitoring procedures in respect of the Council’s largest funding agreements with the voluntary sector have been strengthened. Quarterly meetings now take place with all grant funded organisations and performance is evaluated against Key Performance Indicators and reported to both the Voluntary Sector Steering Group and the Lead Member.
Access to learning and development opportunities
Procurement training for voluntary and community sector organisations took place throughout the last financial year. In total, approximately 30 voluntary and community sector organisations were given advice by the Council’s procurement and commissioning units. The training was evaluated by participants, for the most part, to be excellent.
The strategy and action plan had been updated for 2017/18 to reflect progress made to date; the Council’s new corporate vision and Corporate Plan, and its plans and priorities for the future. The refreshed strategy and action plan were attached as Appendix 1 and the Equality Impact Assessment as Appendix 2 to the report.
Members Noted the progress made to date and endorsed the proposed updates to the Voluntary Sector Strategy 2015-18.