At the request of the VCSE Partnership Programme Executive Group, the VCSE Partnership Programme created a questionnaire to find out more about the VCSE sector’s perception of the relationship with the Integrated Care Board (ICB), and to get a clearer picture of the funding landscape for organisations.
The purpose of this was to understand what the VCSE sector thinks about the level of consideration the ICB is giving to the cross-sector relationship, to gather clear examples of how the Integrated Care System (ICS) cuts are impact the VCSE sector, and to build a clearer picture of what is happening across the North East and North Cumbria area in terms of what is being funded/commissioned at a local level.
This blog will cover the information gathered from the questionnaire, including recommendations from the VCSE sector.
A VCSE Temperature Check Survey around Integrated Care Board (ICB) engagement with the VCSE sector
There were mixed feelings around the ICB’s engagement with the VCSE sector. Some feeling acknowledged and appreciated for their input, whilst others were unsure about the meaningfulness of their engagement and their impact on decision-making processes. Key to this were concerns around limited VCSE representation, inward-facing approaches, and the need for more meaningful action and engagement between sectors. Organisations also noted time, not being invited to discussions and capacity as the main issues limiting VCSE involvement in discussions.
There were multiple recommendations from the VCSE sector relating to ICB engagement:
- Clear and accessible information – this could include such things as easy-read versions of documents and in-person workshops
- Improved and meaningful engagement and communication with the ICB – proposals for this included clear points of contact for both the VCSE and ICB, greater VCSE representation within plans and boards and The Memorandum of Understanding being agreed and adhered to
- Improving the ICB’s understanding of the VCSE sector – for instance, increased ICB engagement with the VCSE on a local level and ICB attendance of VCSE events to gain a better understanding of the sector
Cuts to the VCSE, including cuts to direct service provision and cuts to planned expansion
When asked about cuts impacting VCSE organisations there were recurring themes of insufficient funding, reductions in funding after project validation, and a lack of sustainable of funding. Notably, 83% of respondents with health funding were not getting full cost recovery and 35% of respondents were experiencing cuts to service funding in 23/24. The main impact of these cuts being:
- A reduction in service provision (57%)
- Job losses (57%)
- Social impact on communities (50%)
VCSE organisations main concerns centred around the welfare of service users and the potential rise in health inequality.
Funding, investment and commissioning at local level
The questionnaire also included questions relating to funding, investment and commissioning at a local level. Results found that the majority of those who specified the length of their current health system funded contract(s) stated 1 year.
A key recommendation from the VCSE sector linked to this was for longer-term contracts to improve:
- Financial planning
- Staff wellbeing
- Service continuity
- Overall community benefit
Working towards more sustainable funding would benefit both staff and the communities being served. Further examples from the VCSE sector of what this could look like include:
- Full cost recovery for all commissioned services
- Earlier discussion of potential funding issues and shared solution-finding
- More accessible means of applying for funding
- Increased notice (3 months minimum) of service cancellation to enable alternative arrangements to be made for provision and legal obligations to be fulfilled regarding employees.
It is important that we work together as an Integrated Care System to address these findings. This will ensure the best outcomes for the 3 million people living across the North East and North Cumbria who may need to access NHS and VCSE health and wellbeing services at various points in their lives.
The questionnaire itself had a relatively small number of respondents compared to size of sector (79 total). However, those responses covered all local authority areas, and all communities of interest, as well as mix of small, medium and large organisations.
Our VCSE Executive Group includes members that represent geographic (covers Area-Integrated Care Partnerships (Area-ICP’s)) and thematic communities (e.g Neurology, Women, Ageing Well). We are seeking clarification from the membership that the feedback from this survey accurately depicts the perspectives of the NENC VCSE organisations that they represent. This will ensure that the survey results are not based off a narrow sample size and are representative of the feedback received by VCSE Executive Group members. It was indicated by representatives present at the last meeting that this was indeed the case.
To find out more about our VCSE Partnership Programme and our other Health and Wellbeing Programmes at VONNE, visit our Health and Wellbeing Hub and/or sign up to our Health and Wellbeing Network to find out more about our work and get involved/keep informed about the NHS/ICS regional developments in relation to the VCSE sector.