Last night’s VCS Conference highlighted the great opportunity for the local VCS to work more closely with the local public sector for the benefit of people in need and their communities.
Our keynote speaker, Tony Armstrong of Locality, eloquently spoke of his organisation’s Keep It Local campaign, of the benefits to be gained from local authorities investing through local commissioning in community led service provision so that the money spent is recycled in local economy and gave a range of examples which underlined the success to be gained by such an approach.
There is no point in repeating the ‘Keep It Local’ arguments here, better to refer to the Locality report itself.
Then came a local response in which survey work undertaken by SUSTAiN for the VCS Reference Group was summarised. A sample of 90 organisations had been sampled and the results were extrapolated to indicate that local volunteering in Solihull alone is worth at least an estimated £26M.
In other words, if every volunteer needed to be paid for the contribution they already make in our communities, providing support, advice, guidance, education, steps to employability, escapes from social isolation, etc, it would cost over £26M.
We focused just two great examples of VCS activity transforming lives and transforming communities. Gro Organic had given a lad with high spectrum autism and difficulties with social interaction the confidence which enabled him to secure a future in the armed forces. The Card Big Local project had brought the community together in that neighbourhood and radically reduced anti-social behaviour through providing volunteer led activities at Auckland Hall through which local folk are now meeting, chatting and generating more pride in their place.
Then a real buzz ascended from the delegates as they set to in table discussions, sharing more examples where keeping it local has succeeded, and honing a vision of how more could be done.
After an inspiring and thought provoking evening, we are left with a challenge. How does our local voluntary and community sector build on our contribution to local people and communities and achieve even more?
And we give a challenge to our Public Sector colleagues. How can we develop more opportunities for local partnership working which will strengthen and benefit our communities and ‘Keep it Local’?