A view from the Turret

If like me you subscribe to a whole host of other organisational emails you can occasionally become irritated by how quickly your Inbox fills. However, to me it’s important as it tends to reflect life outside of the Microcosm which is often Northamptonshire. Take the latest NCVO Research for example: Entitled Respond, Recover and Reset, it looks at the experiences of 371 VCSE Organisations over the period of the Pandemic, month by month. What started as a series of negative themes about whether the sector was actually going to survive or not has gradually moved it would seem to a more positive note 15 months on.  Some of the Headline themes are interesting:

Of the 371 that responded, 74% had an employed and salaried workforce: 27% reported a deteriorating financial position, whilst 26% noted improved finances, and 45% reported a relatively stable financial position: 27% reported a decrease in services since March of 2020, whilst 48% stated that they have had to increase services to meet demand. Underlying these monthly soundbites though is the outlook, which is far more worrying. Of those surveyed, 66% expect COVID19 to have a negative effect on their organisation overall, whilst 9% stated that they are unlikely to be operable within the near and foreseeable future. These figures tend to correlate still with the very early GAP Analysis that VIN undertook 3 months into the pandemic: And as a further point I guess you could argue that the latest monthly survey was only completed by 371 organisations across the UK, those probably with the resource and capacity to complete the questionnaire in the very first instance. I still have genuine concerns for the VCSE in Northamptonshire, especially those smaller organisations who have very little inbuilt resilience, but deliver fantastic and often imperative services to their beneficiaries.

And that brings me to the second piece of reading from the County Councils Network (or CCN). The report, entitled Councils and Communities in Partnership, highlights how county authorities helped to protect local charity and volunteer groups during the early stages of the pandemic where fundraising was largely being prevented. It finds that smaller and medium-sized charity groups have been most likely to look to their local authority for support during that period.

Produced by the County Councils Network, the study finds that from North Yorkshire to Kent, county authorities offered support to keep these organisations afloat. Help included immediate grants followed by further hardship allowances to ensure their survival, rent holidays for any group in council-owned buildings, and increases in fees paid to groups who deliver public services such as those in social care.

CCN says that county authorities have shown themselves to be at the heart of their communities: Helping to co-ordinate the mass volunteer efforts that sprung up in the early months of the pandemic, by signposting people and helping  groups to start.  The report says that this is another example of how county authorities can deliver locally, and at the countywide and strategic level.

But looking ahead to the recovery period, the report finds that the infrastructure for smaller and medium sized charity groups in many local areas is patchy, despite the best efforts of Councils for Voluntary Services and other organisations. I think patchy could be the mother of all understatements.

All of this demonstrates to me that the best way of ensuring a true civic society, where people within communities can realise their aspirations, have access to well defined and co-produced services, and have a voice in that production process  is clearly and undeniably the way forward. Personally, I am not sure that Northamptonshire over the past 15 months has mirrored the CCN Report in entirety although I may be wrong, and if I am please tell me. All of this intelligence is useful ahead of our  preparation for VINs  State of the Sector Survey in early 2022.  Please contact me directly on Russell.rolph@voluntaryimpact.org.uk with comments, thoughts or experiences.