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Report for Volunteering England March 2008
Ann Gilbert Mary Hopkins
This report is based on a survey of 30 Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs) and their Local Area Agreements (LAAs), undertaken during February and March 2008. The aim of the research was to find out how volunteering infrastructure organisations had been engaged in the LAA process (both the original one, and negotiations for the new LAA ) the issues raised, and general outcomes. Both voluntary sector infrastructure and local authority representatives in each area were interviewed, and the survey covered a mix of 2 tier and unitary authorities across all 9 English regions, with LAAs from the pilots and rounds starting in 2005, 2006 and 2007. (See list at Appendix A). Comparisons between the areas surveyed are difficult to make due to the differing histories of voluntary sector/local authority/LSP relationships, different levels of understanding and involvement in the LAA process, and variations in the general strength and funding levels of voluntary sector infrastructure organisations. However some key issues have emerged from the survey: • Raised profile for volunteering. The LAA process has clearly put volunteering on the agenda across the country. There was general agreement that central government had helped raise the profile of volunteering through its inclusion as an LAA target, whether or not it was a stretch target. Strengthened partnership working. The participation of the voluntary sector in the development of LSPs and the LAA process has increased the understanding of those involved, and strengthened partnership working. However in many cases volunteering infrastructure organisations themselves were not directly represented in discussions on the LAA. Funding problems and opportunities. Over half the sample had received additional funding for volunteering as a result of the LAA process, but the general context was one of cutbacks in other funding streams, particularly the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund (NRF). Measurement of volunteering a key problem. With baselines set varying from 8% to 70%, all respondents expressed major concerns about the range of definitions and problems in measuring volunteering. As a result some LSPs have decided to use more reliable performance indicators for the new LAA, and have therefore omitted National Indicators (NIs) 6 and 7 from their prime list of 35 indicators. Multi-agency approaches more successful. Some of the most positive accounts of developments in relation to the LAA, were those that engaged a wide range of volunteer involving organisations from all sectors, with volunteering infrastructure taking a strategic or coordinating role. Lack of information sharing between LSPs. There is almost no knowledge within the statutory or voluntary sectors about action being taken in other LSPs to achieve volunteering targets, even within the same region.
This report is just a small snapshot of a larger and very complex picture, and it is inevitable, given the size of the sample (20%), that many examples of good practice will have been missed. However, given the current lack of information, we hope the
report will start a process of information sharing about ways in which all sectors can work together on volunteering issues through the LAA process.
Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) Involvement And Partnerships
The establishment of new and more productive partnerships was a common theme, highlighted by a majority of VCS infrastructure staff and statutory sector officers as one of the benefits of the whole LAA process. Despite other difficulties, many individuals felt that partnerships had become stronger and they now had a better understanding of the other sector, its culture, and the particular constraints it faced. However we also found that some infrastructure organisations did not understand the LAA process sufficiently to engage fully or to influence decisions. In most areas the voluntary/community sector (VCS) was represented on LSPs at both general and executive board levels, as well as on the thematic or block groups. However the extent to which the sector felt its involvement was meaningful, varied. A number of the VCS infrastructure respondents reported initial or ongoing difficulties in accessing a ‘place at the table’ at all, while in other areas LSPs met backfill costs and expenses to support voluntary organisations in attending meetings. It is clear that conditions for involvement in LAAs have been supported by developments steered through the ChangeUp programme, particularly the formation of VCS Consortia, and the rationalisation of infrastructure organisations. Representation on the LSP was often organised through the VCS consortium, a voluntary sector assembly/forum or, in some cases through the Community Empowerment Network. VCS representation at block or theme level was sometimes more ad hoc, although in some areas where this was the case, there were plans to formalise election and reporting back procedures. Strongest involvement was generally where there was one effective VCS body; in unitary areas this might be an all encompassing Local Infrastructure Organisation or effective volunteer centre. In counties, the focus was often directed through a volunteering network or hub, an approach adopted in many areas. However in other cases there was concern, voiced by some volunteer centre staff, that if there was no specific volunteering expertise at the table, because representation on the LSP was solely undertaken by generic infrastructure organisations such as Rural Community Councils (RCCs) or Councils for Voluntary Service (CVSs), then volunteering could take a lower priority. There are obvious issues of scale and complexity in dealing with LAA negotiations in two tier counties. Where volunteering infrastructure is weak and poorly resourced it is more likely that volunteer centres will not have organised themselves into cohesive networks, and there is therefore no one access point with countywide coverage, for the statutory bodies to approach on volunteering issues. Where infrastructure organisations and in particular, volunteering infrastructure, has organised itself into a countywide body recognised by voluntary and statutory sectors, there is a clear focus for the planning and delivery of work associated with volunteering. Inevitably there are tensions between central/sub regional demands and local perspectives, but there were examples of creative ways of dealing with the problems of two tier working (see 3
below). It is worth noting that local authority LSP officers also cited the difficulties of coordinating an LAA in a two tier authority: balancing the needs of a whole county versus the specific needs of Districts and their LSPs; a situation exacerbated by the competition for pooled funds. Conversely, respondents in unitary authorities, from both sectors, generally felt that partnership work was made considerably easier by unitary status. There is usually one major infrastructure organisation or a CVS and a separate volunteer centre, and these provide a natural focal point for working with the local voluntary, community and faith sectors, for delivery or co-ordination of the activities to achieve the volunteering target.
Suffolk - The Suffolk Volunteering Federation (SVF) has recognised that a wider membership, which includes volunteering involving organisations as well as volunteer centres, can provide a stronger voice for volunteering. Lancashire - Lancs. has 12 district level LSPs and 7 CVSs. However there is a strong countywide Voluntary, Community and Faith (VCF) Consortium, which has a number of hubs, including a Volunteering Hub (Volunteering Lancs.). The countywide LSP has top sliced 15% (£120,000) of the pooled funding from the Safer, Stronger Communities block to enable the VCF Consortium to undertake 3 capacity building projects on volunteering. Following a very difficult negotiation process, this is now acknowledged to have helped develop more strategic thinking about the voluntary sector. Bath and N.E Somerset - Part of the delivery plan for this LAA involves good practice training provided by the volunteer centre to local authority officers whose work has a link to volunteering
There was a surprising lack of reference to the VCS Compact in the discussions, although a few areas had included work on the Compact, particularly the Volunteering Code, as part of the overall achievement of the volunteering target. Respondents from both the voluntary and statutory sector hoped to see a higher profile for the Compact in the indicators in the new LAAs.
Tower Hamlets - The volunteer centre here was involved in the development of a Compact Volunteering Code as part of the work for the LAA in 2006/7 Leicestershire - The CVSs have created a consortium with neighbouring Rutland – CVS Community Partnership (CCP). Good working relationships already built with statutory partners through the development of the VCS Compact, ensured voluntary sector involvement at the planning stage of the LAA.
While there was general agreement that the LAA process had raised the profile of volunteering, there was also a consensus among respondents from both sectors, that the overall funding situation did not reflect this. Funding streams that could have been used to support volunteering are currently disappearing in both urban (Neighbourhood Renewal Fund) and rural areas, (Rural Social Development Programme) and in many places the settlement for local councils has reduced. Some respondents felt that under the new LAAs the pooled funding of the Area Based Grant would eventually offer more flexibility to support volunteering, but that this would take time given its current allocation to other services. In more than half the areas surveyed, pump-priming funding from the LAA process had gone directly into volunteering, with amounts varying from £30,000 to £400,000 being made available to support work towards stretch targets. In many cases these had augmented the capacity of volunteer centres to deal with their day-to-day work. Other cases included funding for an outreach worker or for increases in brokerage capacity, money for publicity and marketing, and in some areas, for surveys to establish a baseline and monitor outcomes. Pump priming funding was often matched with other funding streams; however in several cases where there had been no reward target or pump priming funding, the LAA process had been the catalyst for joint funding packages between the LSP partners to support volunteering infrastructure.
West Sussex - A joint agreement has recently been brokered between district councils, PCTs and the county council to enable the survival and restructuring of the volunteer centre network across the county. This had been argued for on the basis that the loss of volunteer centres would jeopardise the achievement of a range of LAA targets to which volunteers contributed. Suffolk - SVF received funding from the LAA, matched by equal contributions from all district and borough councils, to undertake campaigns to promote and increase volunteering to achieve the target. Leicestershire - Funding from the LAA was matched by the county council and Capacity Builders in order to achieve two significant reward targets of which volunteering was an integral part.
Where Reward funding was attached to volunteering stretch targets there were a variety of agreements or understandings about how it would be allocated if/when the stretch targets were achieved. Although few of these arrangements were agreed at the beginning of the process, in many areas it was clear that the VCS generally would benefit in some way from reward funding. In one case there was a direct link between the number of volunteers recruited by each voluntary organisation and the amount of reward they would eventually get. In others there was a general commitment to fund VCS infrastructure, and in one case the money was earmarked to go the local Community Foundation. In several cases the eventual allocation was not known, and in a few cases allocation to the voluntary sector was in dispute.
North Yorkshire – Although there is a volunteering stretch target, it has been agreed that 10% of the total reward funding for the LAA will be allocated to the VCS through the Community Foundation, on the grounds that volunteers contribute to all targets Windsor and Maidenhead – Over 40 volunteer involving organisations, including statutory as well as voluntary, are committed to providing volunteer statistics via the volunteer Centre (part of W&M Voluntary Action) in return for share of reward funding for achieving volunteering stretch targets at the end of 3 years
Definitions and Measurement of Volunteering
There were deep concerns expressed across the board about the definitions and measurement of volunteering, particularly with regard to the definition ‘two hours a week for the previous year’ used in the citizenship /Local Government User Satisfaction Surveys (LGUSS) These concerns are reflected in the identification and measurement of targets. There was no guidance on how baseline figures should be established and so areas developed their own processes, the results of which were disputed in a number of areas. ‘Baselines’ set for volunteering varied from 8% to 70%, depending on the definition, type of survey and sample used. Many used the usual local authority residents’ surveys with exemplar descriptions of volunteering which were limited and excluded the kind of volunteering which many people might recognise, such as helping at a sports club. Such an approach also excluded those who volunteered but were not resident in the area. Other areas commissioned street surveys, which require careful design to provide reliable sampling, and others relied on the figures already collected by the local volunteer centre(s), which had the effect of excluding all volunteering which was not brokered through them. Several areas were developing a basket of measures, both area wide household surveys, citizens panels, and headcounts through a variety of volunteer involving organisations The issue of measurement is impacting on statutory bodies’ attitudes to the national indicators in the new LAAs. Many LAA officers had a clear understanding of the value of volunteering as a good proxy indicator for social capital and cohesion. However, the definition and indicators for both NI6 (Volunteering) and NI7 (Thriving Third Sector) were seen by some as a ‘lost opportunity’. A number of local authorities, and some regional government officers, identified a reluctance to adopt these indicators that rely on perception monitoring, instead preferring to prioritise targets that have measures that are more reliable and relevant to the outcomes. This meant that some authorities were considering volunteering as a local target – i.e. without a reward element – or as a cross cutting theme. Several respondents said they hoped that the Place survey in Autumn 2008 would help establish a common definition and baselines that could be compared across the country; although others, who had already set baselines, expressed annoyance that yet another definition was being introduced, which would make year on year measurement difficult.
Lancashire – An Information and Communications project is being developed with the help of LAA funding, to develop a county-wide database to track: number of volunteering opportunities available; total number of volunteers referred on; and volunteer hours. This is being developed by the Lancs Wildlife Trust as lead body on the VCF Consortium ICT Hub. North Yorkshire - 80 Voluntary/Community Organisations (VCOs) are involved in pooling volunteering statistics in a standardised form, co-ordinated by the volunteer centres who each get an additional £56,000 from the LAA. The incentive for the VCOs is an increase in volunteers recruited for them by the volunteer centres. This ‘headcount’ approach is complemented by the use of standard household surveys. Westminster - The stretch target specifically mentions the volunteer centre, increasing its profile. It has employed an Impact and Evaluation Coordinator to systematically track what has happened to volunteers at volunteer involving organizations involved in LAA projects. This has also helped the VC to identify problems that need follow up.
Taking a more wide ranging approach to volunteering
Volunteering already takes place in a very wide range of contexts (one third of it being in the public sector), and an approach that takes this into account will ensure that volunteering becomes more accessible to more people. Some of the most positive developments in relation to LAAs were those in which a very inclusive approach had been taken to volunteering, engaging a range of volunteer involving organisations, statutory as well as voluntary. This appeared to have a greater influence on the LSP, by demonstrating the wide-ranging contribution of volunteers to outcomes in all the blocks of the LAA. For example volunteering was identified as a key factor in reducing poverty, increasing employability, and addressing issues relating to inclusion and social cohesion, as well as contributing to service delivery generally. In several cases this multi-agency approach entailed pooled recording of numbers and hours of volunteers, sometimes with small amounts of pump priming or reward funding as an incentive. In a few cases the first steps to meeting a volunteering target had been to develop a volunteering strategy, often linked to the Compact Code on Volunteering, which was then used as a vehicle to engage a range of volunteer involving organisations, particularly those in the statutory sector (PCTs, police, local authority Sport and Leisure departments and Countryside units, were those most often mentioned). The provision of volunteer management training was sometimes linked to the strategy, as was the promotion of employee volunteering schemes and the development of quality standards
Bolton – is currently consulting on the first draft of its volunteering strategy, which includes a locally developed quality standard Greenwich has used LAA funding to encourage wider membership of the Volunteer Centre with the aim of developing good practice within the local voluntary sector, thereby increasing the quantity and quality of volunteering opportunities Rotherham -. Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council supports volunteering in its widest sense and seconds a part time member of staff to Voluntary Action Rotherham, to support the work of the Pride of Rotherham Thematic Group. Sheffield - Voluntary Action Sheffield, acting for the LSP, commissioned Sheffield Hallam University to undertake research scoping volunteering, in the broadest sense, in the City and offer recommendations on increasing engagement. This report 'Towards a Volunteering Strategy' (web link www.vas.org.uk) provides a framework for future action.
A supplementary question was asked about the development of sports related volunteering and this revealed that although there are many volunteering infrastructure organisations focusing on the development of volunteering in sport, few were undertaking this as part of the LAA volunteering target. The importance of sports volunteering is understood by infrastructure organisations and some volunteer centres have campaigns underway to address this area of work. Some were working in partnership with the county sports body, linked to Sport England. However, a considerable number were not, and the reason most often cited for this was the difficulty of engaging with these countywide bodies. This is disappointing in view of 8
the expectations invested in the impact of the 2012 Olympics, particularly in the southeast, where the opportunities for sports volunteering do not appear to have been adopted through the LAA process.
Essex – although no funding supports the campaign to increase volunteering, considerable work is taking place, and Sports Essex has been involved as a partner to try and increase sports volunteering. Bedfordshire - the LAA targets on participation in sport are local in this county, but the Local Infrastructure Organisation in South Beds is collaborating with Bedfordshire Sports Partnership to achieve the target.
A partnership approach has been of paramount importance in Gloucestershire in the plan to achieve the LAA volunteering target of a 4% increase (13.9% to 17.9% over 3 years). The VCS is well represented at all levels of the LAA through the LSP with individuals being elected through the VCS Assembly and providing a two way channel of communication between the LSP and the wider VCS. The Gloucestershire Association of Volunteer Centres is the countywide network and was involved from the planning stage; it is now developing into the wider strategy group on volunteering. Cheltenham Volunteer Centre, as the Chair, holds a contract on behalf of the countywide network, to deliver a project that will raise the profile of volunteering in the county and develop new opportunities. Funding through the LAA is providing a Marketing and Development Officer who is working with volunteering involving organisations across the county, to assist them in developing more and better opportunities, to focus on employer supported volunteering, and to encourage creative thinking on promotional activities. Active Gloucestershire, the county sports body, is collaborating to improve the numbers of people involved in and volunteering in sport. The result is a co-ordinated and productive initiative, which is raising the profile of volunteering amongst all stakeholders, at the same time as it increases engagement. Decisions have already been made regarding the distribution of reward funds 30% of the volunteering reward will be top sliced and shared between all the LAA stakeholders; 70% will be invested in the VCS, some for further development of VCS infrastructure and some for VCS training.
Hull has a strong record of VCS and resident involvement, initially in the development of its Community Strategy, and subsequently in the development of its first LAA, which was submitted in 2007. These high levels of involvement and participation were supported by Hull Community Network and built on relationships already developed through participation in drawing up the local Compact and its Codes of Practice. Both Hull Community Network and Volunteer Centre Hull are integral parts of Hull CVS. This has enabled the CVS to take a lead and provide a unified voice to raise the profile of volunteering within the Compact and the LAA. The voluntary sector representative on the LSP argued strongly that the volunteering target would support other targets within the LAA. Volunteering was included as a stretch target (from 9.4% to 12.3% over 3 years), and has a high profile within the LAA, with particularly strong support at senior levels from the city council. Pump-priming grant of about £28,000 p.a. has been used to fund a coordinator for a volunteer team of ‘meeters and greeters’ at the Volunteer Centre, as part of a drive to improve the accessibility of volunteering opportunities. An additional grant of £14,000 has been accessed from NRF that has helped the project to promote volunteering through events such as Volunteers Week and Compact Week. 10
Over the past 2 years a Volunteering Strategy for Hull has been developed by a cross sector working group including Hull CVS, Age Concern, Business in the Community, Hull City Council, Hull Federation of Community Organisations, Hull University, and the Humber Mental Health NHS Teaching Trust in consultation with voluntary, community and public sector organisations as well as individual volunteers. It is seen as crucial in the development and increase of volunteering in Hull, and covers: promotion; recruitment and selection; employee volunteering; volunteer training and support; and measurement, including impact assessment. For further information on the Hull Volunteering Strategy see: www.goldstar.org.uk/documents/Volunteering_Hull_a_strategy_for_the_future_of_ volunteering.pdf
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Realising the potential of volunteering Volunteering is now on the agenda through the LAA process but in some areas volunteering infrastructure organisations are not using the opportunity to raise the stakes in their local area.
The voice of volunteering must be presented strongly and professionally. This involves ensuring that there is volunteering expertise (not merely voluntary sector expertise) represented in partnerships. Strong volunteering networks are needed, particularly in two tier areas and these should include partnership arrangements with a variety of volunteer involving organisations working at grass roots
. 2. Improving partnership working on volunteering Good local authority support is key to developing volunteering through the LAA process. In many areas they and other public sector partners could do much more to ensure that the VCS is participating fully in the process, and in relation to volunteering, to support the involvement of volunteering infrastructure organisations. Statutory Sector organisations should play a key leadership role in supporting volunteering through: I. the provision of information about the workings of the LSP and LAA II. ensuring there are resources for volunteering infrastructure III. giving volunteering a high profile within the public sector, including encouragement for employee volunteering IV. seeking out and involving local expertise on volunteering, rather than trying to manage the work themselves National organisations with regional and/or local presence, for example Sport England, should offer guidance on ways to achieve productive local partnership working 3. Using the Compact There were very few references to the Compact. Central government has, through its response to the recommendations made in the Manifesto on Volunteering, indicated that NIs 6 and 7 in the new LAAs, should provide incentives for application of the Compact, especially the Volunteering Code. Volunteering infrastructure organisations should take advantage of a higher profile being developed for the Compact and raise it as an issue where appropriate
Concerns, raised by some VCS respondents, that there is still a lack of interest and understanding on the part of the statutory sector in the wider potential of volunteering, could be addressed through the 12
development and adoption of a Compact Volunteering Code using a process that includes stakeholders from all sectors. The development of a local Volunteering Strategy, linked to the Compact Volunteering Code, can be a useful mechanism to improve engagement and raise awareness of the cross cutting potential of volunteering especially within strategic partnerships 4. Funding In many areas it was clear that there are insufficient resources available to undertake core work on volunteering and the number of supplementary income sources is shrinking. Resources are needed to match the raised profile of volunteering and to enable volunteering infrastructure to take the strategic role required. Volunteering has a very high ‘return on investment’ and this should be emphasised within partnerships, alongside discussions about the sustainability of volunteering infrastructure. 5. Definitions and measurement In the performance management culture of LAAs the difficulties of defining and measuring volunteering have constituted a major problem, which may well be addressed by the Place survey. However volunteering infrastructure itself must be involved in agreeing definitions and performance indicators.
More coherent definitions of volunteering and better comparison between areas could be achieved if volunteering infrastructure identified and agreed the indicators to be used across the country, and mechanisms for their measurement. These could include the level of volunteering as well as how to count the value of volunteer hours.
6. Taking a multi-agency approach to volunteering In developing volunteering through the LAA an inclusive approach is needed, one that engages with a wider range of volunteer involving organisations across all sectors; rather than being restricted to volunteering infrastructure organisations. Volunteering infrastructure at all levels should: I. use its knowledge and expertise to demonstrate the way in which volunteering can impact across the breadth of LAA delivery. II. engage with a wide range of volunteer involving organisations III. take a strategic and coordinating role, including disseminating good practice, support for the adoption of quality standards, and training, as well as brokerage. .
7. Sharing information/raising awareness There is a lack of knowledge amongst some infrastructure organisations, especially volunteering infrastructure, about the potential for volunteering within LAAs, and the processes involved. Where volunteering infrastructure organisations are not fully engaged in the LAA process there is likely to be a lack of awareness or involvement on the part of local volunteer involving organisations Volunteering infrastructure organisations owe it to their constituencies to ensure that they are aware of the processes and opportunities presented through the LAA – collaborative arrangements amongst volunteering infrastructure organisations should help to share the weight of this demand on capacity The voluntary sector at all levels should be supported through regular information sharing about LAA development and processes particularly in the light of the changes accompanying the second generation LAAs. At national level there should be more collaboration between infrastructure support organisations on the support and information provided in relation to LAA processes. Volunteering England should provide ongoing support and information to regional and local volunteering infrastructure organisations, and there would be benefits in working in conjunction with NAVCA on this. Work should include: i. providing information in a range of formats about the LAA processes, the range of volunteering definitions and types of surveys being used around the country – particularly the Place survey ii. convening information sharing workshops/internet based facilities, on specific aspects of working with LAAs/Community Strategies/LSPs (eg: recording volunteering across different organisations; volunteering strategies; volunteering networks) Regional VCS infrastructure organisations have a role to play, working collaboratively with national bodies to provide support, and collecting and disseminating information about LAA supported action on volunteering in their regions Regional England Volunteering Development Councils also have a role to play in collecting, collating and sharing information about volunteering and the various arrangements for its development within LAAs in their regions.
VOLUNTEERING AND LOCAL AREA AGREEMENTS List of Local Strategic Partnerships surveyed.
REGION LONDON LSP/LAA AREA Greenwich Enfield Kensington & Chelsea Tower Hamlets Wandsworth Westminster Derbyshire Leicestershire Nottinghamshire Bedfordshire Essex Suffolk Birmingham Herefordshire Bath & N. E. Somerset Devon Dorset Gloucestershire Kent West Sussex Windsor & Maidenhead Hull North Yorkshire Sheffield Gateshead Northumberland Bolton Lancashire Liverpool Tameside
WEST MIDLANDS SOUTH WEST
YORKS & HUMBER
NORTH EAST NORTH WEST
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