As a Council for Voluntary Service (CVS), Spark Somerset works with and for the voluntary, community faith and social enterprise (VCFSE) sector.
Our Community Development & Engagement Advisors are embedded in their local communities, where they offer 1:1 support and facilitate forums that bring local organisations together to discuss the big issues. This insight enables us to understand the existing connections and where there may be gaps.
We also facilitate strategic collaboration among various organisations to set direction and make decisions. Some current examples of this work include the Somerset Mental Health Network, the Somerset Youth Work Alliance, the VCFSE Somerset Dementia Partnership, Reflect, Recover Renew task and finish groups and our Food Resilience forums.
Through their collective voice, these groups have:
- Commissioned training for VCSE staff and volunteers
- Influenced decision makers
- Allowed individual organisations to have their say and ‘a seat at the table’
"I have worked with Spark on many different projects over the last year and have seen the huge benefits that they provide to communities across Somerset. Their approach has always been inclusive, looking at how to work with others to deliver outcomes."
Karen Prosser, NHS Foundation Trust
Local Community Networks
There are opportunities for partnership working with our public sector colleagues, including Local Community Networks (LCNs). These are groups that represent the local areas in Somerset, which were established April 2023 when the County Council became a unitary authority and district councils were disolved. The LCNs include the town, city and parish councils in each area, as well as other important partners like the Police, VCFSE organisations, the health and social care sector, businesses, the Fire Service, educational establishments and members of the public. You can find more information about the LCNs such as FAQs, meeting minutes and dates on their website.
In 2022 we published the Reflect, Recover, Renew report which was based on feedback from 190 groups and explored the impact of the pandemic on the VCFSE sector. One of the five key themes that emerged was the importance of a more co-ordinated approach. Then, the transition from NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups to Integrated Care Boards (ICB) in July 2022, presented an opportune moment to achieve this as each ICB had to have a formally recognised way of working with the voluntary sector. In Somerset, the ICB is called NHS Somerset and this agreement is known as the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
It was crucial that the Local Authority was included in this process so that any framework for engagement encompassed the public sector - ensuring a more cohesive, co-ordinated approach. This was especially important due to the timing of Somerset’s council becoming a unitary authority in April 2023.
The MoU has been developed by NHS Somerset, Somerset Council, and voluntary sector representatives (including members of the Spark Somerset team) and was formally signed on 28 September 2023. You can read the Memorandum of Understanding here.
The story so far...
- December 2019 - Somerset Group of Charities is formed. A group of like-minded charities that came together to respond to the opportunities to improve health and wellbeing, supported by The Richmond Group
- April 2022 - NAVCA facilitated workshop sessions between Somerset Group of Charities and Somerset Integrated Care Board, resulting in a proposal framework for how health and the voluntary and community sector will work together
- July 2022 - Somerset CCG becomes NHS Somerset, the Somerset Integrated Care Board (ICB)
- November 2022 - First Somerset VCFSE Assembly held online, launching the framework and new way of working
- March 2023 - NAVCA facilitated a further workshop between Somerset Group of Charities, Somerset Council and Somerset Integrated Care Board, looking at shared values
- April 2023 - Somerset County Council becomes Somerset Council, a unitary authority
- September 2023 - Memorandum of Understanding signed by representatives of the voluntary sector, NHS Somerset and Somerset Council
The Engagement Framework
At the moment, the formal engagement framework is made up of three parts, all of which are at different stages of development:
- The Somerset VCFSE Assembly- a space where challenges can be shared, solutions found, and public sector colleagues can engage and listen
- Board representatives – individuals from VCFSE organisations across the county who will be members of strategic public sector boards organised by the ICB and Somerset Council. These individuals will speak on behalf of the VCFSE sector, rather than represent their organisation
- A steering group which is currently under development. We’ll keep you updated via our newsletter and social media channels
- The framework exists as a front door to all the networks, partnerships, groups and individuals that sit within the VCSE sector
If you want to be involved in any part of the framework, please get in touch via Live Chat or email us.
To find out about the next VCFSE Assembly and other sector news, please subscribe to our Newsletter.