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Pioneering new support for voluntary organisations

Voluntary organisations across Waltham Forest are to be given specialist support as part of a pioneering new approach to help them overcome the challenges posed by changes to funding in the sector.

Recognising the importance of the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector, Waltham Forest Council is looking to commission a new service whose role will be to help organisations in the sector become more self-reliant.

The move comes in response to the growing financial uncertainty experienced by many VCSE organisations.

“The VCSE sector is hugely important and on a daily basis plays a vital role in helping thousands of residents to enjoy life here in Waltham Forest,” said Cllr Liaquat Ali MBE JP, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Cohesion.

“We’ve saved £100million since 2010, and still have to make savings totalling £24million by 2020 – but while we may not be able to offer VCSE organisations as much direct funding as we once were, that does not stop us from supporting them in new ways.

“Our new VCSE Capacity Development Service will help the sector to become more sustainable, focussing on facilitating solutions and development opportunities for people and for organisations, not doing things for them.

“The move towards greater self-support will of course be a gradual evolution, but we’re confident the end result will see a thriving VCSE sector in Waltham Forest – one which is playing a key role alongside the Council in helping ensure residents enjoy a good quality of life and building a strong local economy.”

In 2015, the Council carried out a review of the VCSE sector, which found that many local organisations were struggling in the current financial climate. It also highlighted low levels of volunteering in Waltham Forest.

Therefore, support offered to local organisations through the VCSE Capacity Development Service will include funding advice, building stronger connections to enable better growth, becoming contract ready and advice on how to increase volunteer numbers.

The contract is worth £750,000 over a period of five years. That means the value of this contract is worth £30,000 more per year than the previous voluntary sector support contract.

Through discussions with the VCSE sector, it was established that support and guidance to raise money would be a key requirement of the new service provider, whether an organisation is looking to obtain a small grant to survive or leverage social finance to scale up.

The service will also look to enable more informal opportunities for VCSE organisations to share learning, along with offering advice around structured joint working and enhancing relationships with the private and public sectors.

In addition to helping organisations increase levels of volunteering, the service will aim to support VCSE managers to better train and develop their volunteers, which will in turn have an even greater social benefit.

Cllr Ali continued: “With the new service in place, we hope to see VCSE organisations eventually becoming more successful in winning public sector contracts, better able to work collaboratively on bids and projects, encouraging residents to support good causes and ultimately bringing more money into the sector in Waltham Forest.”

Waltham Forest Council expects to launch the pioneering new VCSE Capacity Development Service on 1 September, 2016.

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