Solette Sheppardson, Chief Executive Officer, gave a presentation in respect of Voluntary Support North Surrey and its work within Surrey Heath.
Voluntary Support North Surrey (VSNS) supported the community and voluntary organisations within Surrey Heath which totalled to between 300- 400 organisations within Surrey Heath. The organisation’s aim was to empower and increase the capacity of third sector organisations. VSNS had worked in partnership with the Council in order to achieve via the following services:
1. Core Services providing charities and the third sector with guidance on governance, strategy, and funding. It was emphasised during the Covid-19 pandemic funding had become a priority area service for VSNS; with third sector organisations experiencing a squeeze on their funds.
2. Support on how to manage, train and motivate volunteers and the administration of DBS checks.
3. Specific support to the areas of deprivation in partnership with Surrey Heath Borough Council
VSNS directly ran the Time to Talk Project, which was delivered in conjunction with Surrey Heath Age Concern. The project served individuals which were suffering with isolation and loneliness. During Covid-19 the project had reconfigured to provide its befriending services via phone and had seen a rise in demand for its services.
VSNS worked closely in partnership with the Council and Surrey Heath Prepared on the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. VSNS gave strong assistance to Surrey Heath Prepared helping them recruit and manage volunteers; as well as providing logistics support in respect of acquiring and delivery of Personal Protective Equipment.
It was acknowledged that the third sector was a laggard in respect of providing digital services and VSNS were continually striving to develop what charitable organisations offered to supporters and clients online. VSNS also aimed to inform and help organisations develop new ways to fundraise online and in the post-lockdown world. It was emphasised that fundraising had become more difficult given the economic situation and the success of online grant applications had become more crucial for the third sector, entailing greater demand for VSNS’s support and expertise on the matter.
During Lockdown many new volunteers had come forward and in turn had opened their mind to volunteering. Whilst numbers of volunteering opportunities had decreased, there was now a new section of volunteers in society for local groups to harness.
Arising from Members questions and comments the following points were noted:
- Voluntary Support North Surrey measured their success via statistics captured in respect of volunteering. For example VSNS could measure how many volunteers were currently on placements and how many corporate organisations were currently taking part in volunteering schemes ran by VSNS. However it was suggested by Members that there could be better, more in-depth, regular measurement of VSNS’s performance in the future.
- VSNS assisted and guided third sector organisations through the DBS check process.
- VSNS aimed to help third sector organisations to harness the new pandemic-led emphasis on the digital world. VSNS aimed to get more third sector organisations meeting via digital board meetings, and undertaking day to day functions via video-conferencing services. Acknowledging that it was a key indicator for fundholders, VSNS actively helped third sector organisations develop their websites and their social media presence. VSNS offered training courses on language use in grant applications as well as a grant application checking service.
- VSNS worked with local voluntary organisations in order to place students taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh scheme. However it was acknowledged outside of this they could improve on their efforts to engage with young people. It was acknowledged young people could offer voluntary organisations significant social media expertise and skills. It was suggested that Surrey Heath Youth Council and Surrey Youth Cabinet, as well as Secondary Schools could be good initial channels for promoting volunteering to local young people.
- Although there was acknowledged room for improvement in respect of raising their own funds, VSNS had managed to access funding from central government Health and Wellbeing funds and had attracted small donations from individuals.
- VSNS steered potential volunteers to where they were needed and did not give the Time to Talk Project any preferential treatment.
- As per the annex in the agenda report pack VSNS placed 412 volunteers during the first quarter of this year. However it was noted that this figure was slightly higher than normal due to the influx of volunteers at the start of the pandemic.
The Committee thanked Solette for her informative presentation.