Voluntary Action Camden

VAC Quarterly Update to Members and Subscribers (May 2022)


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Quarterly Update to Members and Subscribers

6th May 2022

CEO Spotlight

Keith Morgan, Chief Executive Officer

I thought I would introduce this quarterly update with an insight into my first few months as the new CEO of VAC. We will see how this goes and if I avoid being flooded with letters of dissatisfaction, I just might make it a mainstay.
Some of you may know me from my time as CEO of Young Camden Foundation. For those that do and have wished me the best of luck in this new venture, thank you. For those that don’t (know me that is) I look forward to meeting you and over the coming months I will be extending an invitation for a coffee and chat.

Baptism of fire

On my first day at VAC, I attended a Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise Sector (VCSE) Integrated Care System (ICS) meeting. It was somewhat a baptism of fire and allayed any misguided thoughts I had about easing myself into the role. We spent the first part of the meeting reflecting on the important role the VCSE played during the pandemic to support those in our local community who faced the highest health inequalities. We also talked about the importance of North Central London Clinical Commissioning Group working in partnership with local communities and VCSE. This first meeting was extremely insightful and helped me to acknowledge and understand the importance of VCSE as a strategic partner of the ICS and recognise the unique contribution the sector makes to tackling health inequality in the borough.
VAC is a member of the Integrated Care Partnerships and works with health, social care and related VCS organisations to ensure Camden is the best place to grow, live and age well. On 15 June, 11am – 12pm we will be hosting a forum on the Integrated Care System.  Please join us to hear more about what is happening at a neighbourhood level and how you can get involved. You can RSVP here.

Responding to the needs of our members

Throughout the pandemic VAC hosted forums focused on emerging challenges facing the sector. The forums provided an opportunity for local voluntary and community organisations and groups to continue to meet, collaborate and share. We have maintained these forums and I have been working with the VAC team to develop mechanisms to improve the way we consult with members.
We currently have two grant programmes open (Room Hire and Community Champions grant) that we think address some of the challenges community organisations and residents are facing. Please click on the links to find out more.

Emerging challenges

Like many others I’m concerned about the cost-of-living crisis and the impact it will have on Camden residents. As we did during the pandemic, VAC is watching the situation closely and stands ready to support the local community during this difficult period. I recently attended a briefing on the issue hosted by Greater London Authority and heard how London-based charities and community organisations were stepping up their advice and support to tackle the crisis head-on. The Mayor of London has launched a new Cost of Living Hub for Londoners facing financial hardship, as a result of spiralling inflation, increases in National Insurance and Council Tax, and the lifting of the energy price cap. The hub helps Londoners access information, support and advice about claiming benefits, dealing with debt, financial management and mental health support.
The situation in Ukraine is also very concerning. Camden has a long history of providing sanctuary to people fleeing conflict from across the world, and the outpouring of compassion shown by the large number of Camden residents signing up to the Homes for Ukraine scheme is heart-warming. In partnership with London Borough of Camden, VAC is establishing a sense of the responses planned by the local community to the Ukraine Refugee crisis. We have hosted a discussion on the community response and will continue to provide a space for community organisations to hear and discuss what is happening at a statutory and community level. Click here to find out more.
We are also keen to hear about the ideas you and others might have, and how best to coordinate the responses. If you haven’t already please click the link here to complete a short survey about Ukrainian refugee response.

Renewing VAC Strategy

We are in the process of developing a new strategy and we want to develop it with the input of our key stakeholders including our members and strategic partners. As a CVS, there are elements to what VAC sets out to do, and how, that are non-negotiable. However, after coming out of what has been an exceptional period, and facing a mercurial future, it seems imperative that our strategic plan is informed by our key stakeholders. Over the coming weeks we will be asking our members and strategic partners to help us with:

  • Reflecting on what we have achieved and failed to achieve during the last three years
  • Understanding the impact of external factors on the context of our work
  • Reviewing how we frame the language around what we do and what we’ve achieved
  • Setting out our ambition and priorities for the next three years, and agreeing the values and behaviours needed to achieve them.

Please look out for an invitation from us to complete a short survey.
I hope you enjoyed reading my update as much as I enjoyed reflecting on my first few months. I look forward to sharing more about the work that VAC is doing in the next quarterly update.

Team Updates

Communications and Marketing

John Nellis, Communications Worker

I joined VAC as a part-time Communications Worker in September 2021 to help grow the VAC communications profile and implement our communications strategy. I’ve since taken over writing the weekly VAC newsletter upon the retirement of the CEO, Kevin Nunan, and have begun to use social media to promote VAC’s resources to the VCS community in Camden. We have been steadily growing our audience and are looking to increase the VAC membership. As my role becomes more embedded in the organisation, we hope to increase our abilities further with links to communications professionals within the VCS, increasing our capacity to support groups with communications and signposting to local events and opportunities, as well as promoting the successes of both VAC and our members,  our partners and wider Camden VCS.

If you are looking for some support in developing you communications, get in touch with VAC to see how we can help, or email me directly at social@vac.org.uk

Digital and IT

Alex Charles, IT and Digital Manager

The main focus of the last few months has been  a redesign of VAC’s Community Directories to improve overall the look and feel, whilst making it easier for groups to promote their services, and for service-users to search and connect with community-based services in Camden. We were delighted to launch our new Directory in January 2022, including a new Green Social Prescribing Directory to help residents and social prescribers connect with green activities in the borough. It’s been really interesting learning from the analytics about the types of services and activities users are searching for and how, using data, we can further develop and improve the Directories to meet the needs of our users.
We are applying a similar, iterative approach to our website, and using tools like Google Analytics and HotJar to understand how users are interacting with our website content. Our funding pages are particularly popular, enabling groups to search for the latest funding opportunities. We are also beginning to notice how our increased efforts around communications have started driving better engagement to our website and take up of our services. None of this would be possible without support from our excellent Website and Data Entry volunteer, Hasel Hooshiar.

If you are looking for support or advice on undertaking digital development or use of digital tools to support your work, get in touch with VAC to see how we can help, or email me directly at alexcharles@vac.org.uk

Keeping VAC information up to date

Hasel Hooshiar, Website and Data Entry Volunteer

Over the last quarter I’ve been adding the latest funding opportunities to VAC’s website, ensuring they have the correct tags and deadlines so that people can search for what they need accurately.  I’ve also spent my time helping to keep the details of organisations on VAC’s database and Community Directories up-to-date.  I’ve also been helping the staff to record their work on our internal Salesforce database so we have accurate stats to help monitor our work. My key focus over the next few months is ensuring the Directory and the funds are as useful as possible for Camden residents and organisations.

If you need any help adding or updating your details on our Directory, please get in touch with me at volunteer2@vac.org.uk.

Health Inequalities

Community Links Team: Donna Turnbull, Nasrin Rashid and Mandira Manandhar

Care Navigation and Social Prescribing Service

During 2021/22 the Community Links team at VAC has increased the Care Navigation and Social Prescribing Service offer to include a dedicated Green Social Prescribing offer via our new Directory, increased support from volunteers to encourage high intensity users of social prescribing to move into social and community activities, and a focus on exploring the type of activities that might benefit residents affected by Long Covid. Community Links still works closely with our emergency response collaborators Good Gym, Time to Spare and Volunteer Centre Camden who provide task-based volunteering support to residents. This includes shopping and chaperoning to health appointments.

The data and insights from social prescribing and health inequalities collaborations are shared with other VCSEs to develop activities through VAC’s core work. VAC is using the learning from all this work to develop a VCSE perspective in the emerging Integrated Care Partnership and System for Camden and North Central London (NCL).

Winter Resilience Programme
This can be seen in a recent project, delivered in partnership with Healthwatch Camden, Umoja and Life After Humus has illustrated the equalities issues for residents accessing health services, but also points to solutions that we have proposed to explore in a workshop with NCL commissioners. VAC is working with Camden neighbourhoods and with counterparts in the other 4 NCL boroughs to embed the voluntary sector in development and decision making in the health and care system. In parallel we are working with London Plus and National Academy for Social Prescribing to influence regional and national development of social prescribing and addressing health inequalities.

Long Covid
The Community Links Team have also been working on an 8-week pilot project with the UCLH long covid clinic. Referrals are directly from multiple disciplinary teams, and we have been assisting patients across Camden and neighbouring boroughs access social prescribing as a suitable intervention, to support with their recuperation from the effects of long covid. Community Links volunteers have been an integral part in the process, with helping identify as well as motivate with potential opportunities open to individuals in their local community.  Over the next few weeks, using data from referrals, we plan to start building a detailed picture of the impact of long Covid on Camden residents, and how the VCS is a vital player in supporting residents in Camden improve their health and well-being.

If you would like to find out more about VAC’s work on Health Inequalities and related projects, get in touch with either Donna Turnbull, Mandira Manandhar or Nasrin Rashid

Cultural Advocacy Project

Mandira Manandhar, Community Links Volunteer Coordinator and CAP Project Manager

You may not know already, but VAC runs a Cultural Advocacy Project (CAP), in partnership with Mind in Camden. The CAP supports and develops mental health projects with BME communities and groups to promote good mental health and well-being across communities. We were delighted to hear recently that we have secured funding for the project to continue for another year.

The project supports weekly peer support groups, individual support, workshops and wellbeing events to support people’s individual mental wellbeing. It provides practical help and support as well as opportunities to engage and connect with local activities/services to reduce isolation.
I deliver a peer support group and provide individual support to the members of Henna Women’s centre. Since our colleague, Zubair, left in February, a new well-being group in Rhyls School has been launched and the group is starting every week on Tuesday from next week.

We are currently working with Mind to plan out the key project deliverables for this coming year.

For more information on the CAP, or for advice and guidance on embedding health and well-being initiatives in your work,  get in touch with VAC to see how we can help, or email me directly at mmanandhar@vac.org.uk.

Fundraising Support to Groups

Ricky Singh, Building and Finance Administrator

Over the last few months I have been busy administrating the Google Grants scheme. This is a pot of funding to help community groups pay for premises or space to meet or deliver their activities. The grant enables small groups that do not have the funding to pay for the venue and would otherwise not be able to hold their event. This grant not only helps the groups,  but aims to help raise income for community based venues that have seen their booking income fall dramatically due to people working from home and less face-to-to face service delivery.
Currently we have supported 6 groups and 4 venues with pay-outs totalling nearly £2000, but we are looking to fund so much more so do check out the scheme on our website to see if we can assist. Whilst you’re there, check out our Community Champions grant to see if you can apply, or check our funding pages for other opportunities.

Other than the Google Grants scheme I have been supporting groups to search for funding opportunities using our Grantfinder Tool, as well as helping to keep the office and VAC finances in good shape.

For more information on fundraising or other capacity building support,  get in touch with VAC to see how we can help, or contact me directly at rsingh@vac.org.uk.

Safeguarding: Community Safeguarding Partnership Service (CSPS)

Dianne Carlton-Ogunyemi, Community Partnership Lead

Funded by the London Borough of Camden since 2006, the Community Safeguarding Partnership Service (CSPS) continues its work to support, encourage, and assist all voluntary, supplementary schools and faith groups, to deliver safe and effective services for children and young people in the borough.
My name is Dianne and since taking over the project’s delivery in April 2018, my work has evolved to include an extensive training portfolio for volunteers, paid workers, senior staff and trustees, a safeguarding podcast at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and delivery of both virtual and face-to-face sessions.
Unlike standard accredited safeguarding programmes, the project offers training tailored to the child protective needs of individual communities. Over the past six months sessions delivered have raised awareness of issues such as on domestic violence, abuse linked to faith, radicalisation and private fostering arrangements.
If you are an organisation, group or supplementary school delivering services to under 18’s from marginalised, black, Asian, micro ethnic, refugee or disadvantaged communities in Camden, the project is here for you. Look out for our upcoming virtual sessions in May and June on women and girls’ personal safety, safer recruitment for voluntary organisations and groups and an introduction to safeguarding for new volunteers.

For more information on any of the above please contact Dianne Carlton-Ogunyemi at dogunyemi@vac.org.uk Monday – Wednesday.

Keeping our Finances on Track

Manuella Bunketi, Finance Manager

For the last quarter, I have been dealing with the day-to-day financial transactions; sending invoices to the funders, paying our suppliers, processing salaries for staff and dealing with finance matters. I have prepared the management accounts for the year that has just ended for the Board of Trustees and have started gathering information for 22-23 budget and CF Forecast
For the next few months, I am looking forward to finalising the budget and Cash flow forecast for the new financial year 22-23, preparing the financial statements for the year ended March 21-22, in relation with the Independent Examiner for the Companies House and Charity Commission, and looking after the everyday financial transactions and reports.

…and finally

We hope you’ve enjoyed our quarterly update from the Team at VAC. Stay tuned for our next quarterly update in a few months. In the meantime, our normal weekly bulletin will resume on the 13th May. If you have any items for the newsletter, please email social@vac.org.uk and take a look at the publishing criteria on our website.
You can also check our website for our latest training and events, as well as more details on our projects and services, including the latest grants for Room Hire and Community Champions Initiative.

We wish you all the best, from Keith & the VAC team: Alex, Dianne, Donna, Hasel, John, Mandira, Manuella, Nasrin and Ricky  and all the Trustees and Volunteers.

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