Matthew Upton is the Strategic Lead for Engagement and Consultation for Camden council and has been working with VAC on the Community Researchers Enterprise and the setup of the Healthwatch organisation.
Here Matthew gives his perspective on how collaborative working with VAC has been beneficial for the council, and in particular, local Camden communities.
VAC comes up in Council conversations all the time – as in how do we get the voluntary sector involved? So in this current case, Community Researchers, we decided to pay local people to do the research about what people think about the council and the services instead of hiring an outside consultancy firm. Going that way that tells you the ‘what’ but it doesn’t tell you the ‘why’.
We thought if we spend ‘X’ thousand pounds on doing survey work and paying an outside consultancy, outside the borough, we would rather employ local people from inside the borough. We thought there was an opportunity to both improve access to jobs and make those young people’s lives better but also get better local insight. Because local people know they are better than people from outside the area.
So we came to VAC for a combination of advice – they’re very experienced, we’ve worked with them a lot – but also what has been challenging for us as a big organisation is that we want a very flexible group of local people who can work when it suits them. And things like HR around that can be very challenging for us. So we wanted to work closely with VAC where they could employ the community researchers. The idea being we could almost run the project jointly. Compared to some of the organisations we’ve worked with in the past, it was almost a joy. It wasn’t like if we came to VAC we knew the answer would be yes. We just knew that VAC would be up for the idea if they liked it, up for thinking a bit differently. So it’s been really good so far.
Q. Can you tell us a bit about Healthwatch?
We approached VAC for the Healthwatch scheme for two reasons. One we needed to do work as a Council on how to set up a new charity, and VAC was perfect for that. They were fantastically helpful for that expertise. They also gave us informed, unpaid advice on how to set up an organisation that adds value in the community through their knowledge of all the organisations in the voluntary sector in Camden.
Secondly, we knew Healthwatch would face the challenge of finding their feet as a new organisation and to make links in the community. We couldn’t think of anything better than to base Healthwatch in the VAC office and benefit from that proximity. So while we’re hands off, now that Healthwatch is up and running as an independent body, from what I’ve seen they have benefited enormously from their association with VAC.
If you are interested in any of the work you have read out about here, please get in touch with Simone Hensby at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out more about the work of Healthwatch please visit their website at: www.healthwatchcamden.co.uk