It’s spring, a time of new beginnings, so I’d like to take this opportunity to give you an update on what’s happening at VAC. I’ve taken over as Interim Executive Director from Simone Hensby, the Executive Director for many years who has now left. As part of that process we’ve taking a look at how we work and how we can work better for our members and users – i.e. you.
We’ve been busy recently with a range of things – administering this year’s Festival Fund, working with our partners to make the most of the Charlie Ratchford building (where we are currently based), taking part in Healthwatch Camden’s ‘renters and health’ investigation and organising a new network of organisations involved in Social Prescribing (see below).
We’ve also been raising awareness in the sector for a couple of major Consultations: Training: Camden TDS (the training and development service) is changing both its name (to Camden Learning and Development) and how it works. We’ve hosted some discussions with the sector and impressed on the council the importance of retaining access to training for the VCS. Rents: The council have engaged consultants to take soundings from the sector about the market rents issue. VAC has long advocated for the role of social value and the need for a clear measure for use both for rents and for contracting and commissioning. Social value gives us a chance to measure our worth by other measures such as wellbeing and community cohesion. The consultants running the consultation (Snook) will report to soon.
A big topic currently is Social Prescribing – a phrase that covers all sorts of work that connects health service users with their community. We launched a Social Prescribing Learning Network yesterday for all the groups and organisations involved – there was a great turnout – (see pic above) this is a perfect opportunity to find out more about the social prescribing initiatives in the borough and how we can all play a part. Contact Donna, Mandira or Nasrin.
As we all know, it is a challenging funding environment out there for most of us in our sector. As an organisation we are looking at ways in which we can still serve the sector well, in some cases through partnership (such as our training partnership with the Mary Ward Centre), through better use of volunteers (in the office and in projects such as the Community Health Advocates), and working with partner organisations in smarter ways (such as sharing space and using data and online forms). But whatever we do we don’t want to compromise our independence – we will always speak out on behalf of the sector about inequalities and unfairness.
Of course, all the core things that a CVS does continue; keeping you informed with the weekly e-bulletin, and up to date with policy and local changes; Offering advice and support on everything from HR to fundraising and running training and events (our annual Governance course for trustees starts end of May!); Linking members to each other, to resources and to public sector partners; And of course, helping you to ensure your voice is heard on the local stage.
We’re looking forward to a positive and constructive relationship with Camden’s new CEO, Jenny Rowlands, and we have started working with the Community Partners Team, C4, Volunteer Centre Camden and others to strengthen support to the sector in order to benefit the lives of Camden residents.