Last month, Voluntary Action Westminster and Paddington Development Trust organised a get-together of chairs and trustees from Westminster’s charities, voluntary organisations and community groups.
The idea was to discuss the issues of the day – without a particular agenda or outcome in mind.
The conversation ranged from mergers (are they really the answer to all our troubles?) to housing benefit cuts (how can we collaborate to support affected families?) and the need for a more confident voice in campaigning on local issues.
So what did people say?
- Housing Benefit changes and welfare reform will hit Westminster communities hard. The voluntary sector needs to collaborate to evidence the local impact of these changes, and to support the people affected
- One of the key issues for Westminster’s voluntary and community sector is the move to commissioning, and the impact of that move on organisational culture, and the ability of the voluntary and community sector to influence service design
- There was strong support for independent campaigning work to identify and document community issues, and to communicate these assertively to the statutory sector
- Opportunities to share experiences and resources were welcomed, but voluntary sector Leaders felt that potential cost savings associated with mergers had been overstated, and few wanted to risk losing their organisation’s values in a merger
- Leaders understood the potential opportunities for working with businesses, GPs and schools, but wanted clear examples of how this had worked in practice, and brokering support from Voluntary Action Westminster
- Voluntary sector leaders are aware of new and under-used sources of funding, but there is uncertainty about how to best take advantage of them.
I've already arranged a meeting with Mike More (CEO at Westminster City Council) to discuss the issues raised on commissioning and procurement, and will keep you updated on what we discuss.
You can read more detailed notes in our Leaders Event report