Seven years ago, when SUSTAiN was set up initially as a consortium of local infrastructure providers, the message was all about how things were going to change in the years ahead. The programme that central government were funding was then called ChangeUp.
Well, most of this has come true and more changes are on the horizon.
So, how are we at the Colebridge Trust & SUSTAiN responding to these new challenges and how are we supporting you? We look back over the first half of this year and reflect on how we are getting on.
We now have Alan Crawford as our Funding Officer who has helped dozens of organisations improve the quality and success rate of funding bids. In little over a year, Alan has helped VCO’s bring in over three quarter of million pounds so far and has something like £3 million’s worth waiting for a decision.
Business Support & Fundraising
June Mole is probably the voluntary sectors best friend. June helps illicit support from and make connections with the private sector. When she is not doing that, she is busy organising fundraising events under the Solihull Together banner. The last two events June organised raised just over £10,000. All of this money goes back out in small grants to voluntary and community groups in Solihull. Around 60 groups have benefited so far. Another round of Solihull Together grants has just been announced.
Our Volunteer Centres are starting to make a difference to the number of people volunteering and the quality of both the volunteers and volunteering roles. In addition to advertising volunteering opportunities and finding volunteers, they support organisations improve the management of volunteers. They have also started outreach sessions across the borough as way of improving the service within a limited budget.
The Voluntary & Community Sector Reference group provides a forum where your sector reps can meet, compare notes and get information out to you. This also provides a forum to discuss what we at SUSTAiN and The Colebridge Trust are doing and invite input.
Our SUSTAiN Alerts circulation continues to grow and we receive very positive feedback from you on their value.
For the past 7 months or so, we have been working in partnership with Development in Social Enterprise, BEST and Business in the Community to provide one to one support and workshops for VCO’s who are thinking about running a community or social enterprise. The feedback on the support has been very positive but the level of take up has been very low. Even organisations running social enterprises have not taken up the offer of free support. All for good reasons no doubt but a missed opportunity for some.
Social Value & Commissioning
The Social Value Act is a significant piece of legislation which could benefit the VCS and Social or Community Enterprises and change procurement of public services in a way that benefits the local community more. How it is applied is down to each local area. We have secured the support of the man who designed and tabled the bill in the first place to run a workshop on 23 November to help shape how it is applied in Solihull.
Income & Social Enterprise
One of the messages 7 years ago was the need to diversify income streams and the trend towards social enterprises. Our own social enterprises continue to forge ahead. Waterloo Woodwork and Colebridge Communications will now come under the single banner of Colebridge Enterprises. We have also now diversified into a new area of component assembly with the car industry which has created 10 part time jobs for people with a learning disability and others who are long term unemployed. Our new venture has attracted regional and national press interest with both the Birmingham Post and Sunday Telegraph. The latter carried an article featuring us last weekend (4 November).
Our community projects Skills For Jobs and Solihull Health Trainers continue to deliver impressive results in helping people back into work or to lead healthier lifestyles.
Many of the clients that Skills For Jobs supports have never worked. Against an initial target of getting 5% of clients into paid employment, they have supported 48% of their clients to get jobs.
Health & Well-being
Solihull Health Trainers have recently established the Health Trainer Champions. There are 11 volunteer champions from the local community. They are be trained to level 2 RSPH ( Royal Society of Public Health) certificates which are nationally recognised. The champions will be an added resource to the core team to help promote the service and provide health and well-being advice. They will work out in the community and refer those who need specialist support to the best place.
Training & Development
We are also working with Solihull College and Solihull MBC to establish Solihull’s Community Learning Trust (CLT). Solihull’s CLT has two themes. The development of more ‘enterprising communities’ and ‘improved health and well-being’ using learning as a tool.
We continue to look at ways of improving our service to you and the local community plus our own sustainability.
Are you equipped to deal with change? Our own experiences and the services we offer may be of benefit to you.
SUSTAiN and the Colebridge Trust are here to help you. Please take advantage of that.