Agenda item

Voluntary Support North Surrey (VSNS)


The Committee received a presentation from Helen Frary, Chairman, and Solette Sheppardson, Chief Executive Officer, of Voluntary Support North Surrey in respect of its recent work.


Voluntary Support North Surrey (VSNS) was an independent charity supporting approximately 1,500 third sector organisations within the Boroughs and Districts of Spelthorne, Runnymede and Surrey Heath and thereby served the needs of circa 300,000 Surrey residents. VSNS supported the third sector in fulfilling its statutory obligations; in building capacity, through helping fill unmet need for volunteers; providing support in respect of communications and engagement and providing training for charitable organisations; and aimed to provide support and be a beacon as to how a charitable organisation should be run. More recently VSNS took a more active role in directly providing service provision in relation to the Covid-19 vaccination volunteer programme. It was noted that whether the organisation wanted to extend itself in respect of direct service provision was the subject of a current internal discussion within VSNS.


VSNS’ business plan for 2021/2023 laid out 4 priorities for the organisation moving forward:

1.    Supporting provision in respect of health (with an emphasis on mental health).

2.    The development of diversity and inclusion within the organisation. It was acknowledged that there was a need for volunteers and VSNS clients to feel represented by the makeup of the organisation. As a result, initiatives were being undertaken to attract younger trustees from a more diverse range of backgrounds.

3.    Future-proofing following the pandemic- It was acknowledged that during the pandemic that a large amount of volunteers had volunteered for the very first time and that it was important for VSNS to understand their motivations and circumstances before they could encourage them into new volunteer roles post-pandemic.

4.    Communication for Impact – It was acknowledged whilst VSNS provided a united voice for the third sector, the organisation had struggled to communicate and be visible as the force behind the large group of volunteers.

VSNS received Surrey Heath specific funding from Frimley Park CCG, Surrey Heath Borough Council and Surrey County Council. The Borough Council provided £30,000 in core funding to the organisation and an additional £10,000 specifically in respect of the Time2Talk befriending service.  As per normal, over the past year VSNS had successfully provided services to increase the capacity and capabilities of the services provided by the third sector including advice and training on application writing, social media content, fundraising, youth engagement and governance and board matters. In addition to this VSNS had provided greater direct provision, than had previously done so, in respect of health. The organisation had placed 360 volunteers at Lakeside vaccination centre between January and April and from April onwards had been a driving force behind the Covid-Champions programme and had organised provision of Personal Protective Equipment and Oximeters. Also in respect of health, VSNS had continued to run its Mental Health Forum, which aimed to promote joined-up working within the third sector in respect of good mental health provision, and provided support to build the capacity of organisations which received referrals from social prescribing. It was also noted that VSNS continued to work in conjunction with Surrey Heath Age Concern in order to run the Time to Talk befriending service.


VSNS felt that there were opportunities to work with the Council to improve its private sector engagement and provide a more coordinated approach to recruiting corporate sector volunteers. It was felt that there were also potential to work in even stronger partnership with Surrey Heath Age Concern. In addition it was noted that VSNS were in conversations with the Council in respect of the potential to create a volunteering hub in Camberley Town Centre.


Resulting from Members’ questions and comments the following points were noted:

·         Voluntary Support North Surrey had received recognition from the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Surrey in respect of its excellent organisation of volunteers at the Lakeside Vaccination Centre.

·         At Lakeside vaccination Centre 17 lead volunteers led and organised the rest of the volunteer workforce. The structure and makeup of the volunteering programme was being used as a blueprint for the coordination of volunteers throughout the rest of the country.

·         Councillors saw the move by the organisation to be more representative, diverse and inclusive as a positive.

·         There was a trend that Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) potential volunteers had a lower take-up rate when offered volunteering placements in comparison to their non-BAME counterparts. Further work had to be undertaken to understand the cause of this and it was considered by Members whether there was value to VSNS reaching out to local minority groups in order to try to engage greater numbers of the BAME community in volunteering.

·         Following the recent height of the pandemic, the Duke of Edinburgh scheme was starting to resume in schools, and there was potential for VSNS to help local charities harness these potential volunteers. Previously VSNS did not have enough placements to meet the demand of Duke of Edinburgh scheme participants. However since then, VSNS has widened the breadth and volume of Duke of Edinburgh scheme placements which it has available.

The Committee thanked Helen and Solette for their time and informative presentation.



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