Following Javed Khan’s presentation to the Health Alliance in November we were invited to present at the Integrated Care Board (ICB) leadership board away day. In early January William Butler, Emily Lewis Edwards Co-CEO of Community First Oxfordshire and Katharine Barber, CEO of Home-Start Oxford ran an interactive 90-minute workshop on the voluntary sector for the board which includes the senior executive leadership and non-executive directors to help them understand the context and realities of and potential of the voluntary sector across bob.
Katharine wrote up her impressions of the day for us here:
Emily Lewis Edwards from Communities First Oxon gave an overview of needs and challenges from their perspective*, and I was asked to speak as a practitioner organisation.
The Chair, Javed Khan asked that the segment was the start of getting to know the local sector (for those not already familiar); how collaborative working with the sector could help to deliver the ICS aims; what the ICB could do to help us in our work; challenges and opportunities to be aware of.
It was attended by the majority listed here: bucksoxonberksw.icb.nhs.uk/about-us/our-board-leadership/
- Our delivery of preventative work, and support / containment of those on waiting lists e.g. adult MH or CAMHS. I gave them all a copy of the ‘Guardian Angel’ family story from the Oxfordshire Storytelling Project, which they read. Prompted useful discussion, for example highlighting that Oxfordshire’s ‘red flag’ issues are isolation and ‘school readiness’; a recognition from the Board of the important role the VCS could play addressing these issues.
- We help bring a reality check on what statutory services feel like in our communities and where gaps are most problematic.
- Our relationships are different, less time-bound, based on trust, no-judgement; in our case trained volunteers. Achieves change, longevity of support and a holistic approach that might be impossible for a statutory service. We’re making connections between several of their priorities – one service could meet several objectives.
- I referenced extreme levels of isolation we are working to, increased and high levels of complexity, including advocating for families / escalating re. ‘social determinants of health’ such as housing and mould issues. I shared that it felt the Board are far from the communities we’re working in. The following week, the Chair and a fellow board member came to visit Blackbird Leys. The City Council organised for them to meet Oxford Hub, Hassan Sabrie, Director of Oxford Community Action and local pharmacist Tafiq, who created the Healthwatch report and video on wellbeing.
- Challenged preconceptions they might have – e.g. re. ‘well meaning’ volunteers (reality trained, managed and supported, lived experience, enormous commitment, flexibility for whatever comes up), can charities be relied on? Vs. great accountability to our funders and fighting for every penny.
- We need recognition and funding
- Structure commissioning so you don’t kill creativity or exclude the VCSE by default. Support the methods (e.g. holistic approach) that help VCSE deliver successfully.
- We can highlight examples of excellence from other parts of the UK in our specialist field.
- Recognise that there’s a blind spot currently – if health don’t have a funded relationship, it’s like we don’t exist.
- Smaller groups with brilliant reach (especially led by and serving diverse communities) less likely to have staffing capacity to attend meetings. Convene around a theme or issue you want to address but don’t define too tightly.
- Don’t think ‘this is too messy or complicated; why don’t they all merge?’. The passion, locality, relationships with communities is what make groups successful, or volunteering meaningful. Focus on working with what exists and use umbrella groups, sub-groups of ICS, Regional Directors, other funders, to help navigate the ecosystem.
- Invest in the development of an approach. Start with the problem; convene multi-sector players around the issue and help devise a cross-sector solution. Recognise partnership work takes investment on our part as well as theirs – £. Don’t start with statutory service provider alone – risk you just do more of the same.
*Emily’s key points included huge range and variety in the sector, real financial vulnerabilities (can’t be taken for granted) and sense that we’ve reached peak volunteering potential.
There was a positive reception to our segment and it felt like they were genuinely listening. The responsiveness from the Chair is encouraging. Javed Khan’s recent article picks up on some similar themes and a useful challenge to us too. https://civilsocietycommission.org/conversation/keeping-civil-societys-butterfly-wings-flapping/
Thank you Katharine for your recap!
The next steps for the Health Alliance are presenting to two committees of the ICB board and a joint workshop with the senior executives in early March leading to a memorandum of understanding between the ICB and the VCSE Alliance.