Working together for a stronger workforce

Author: Sara Toal

Richard Boggie, North East and North Cumbria VCSE Health Partnerships Strategic Manager reflects on the workforce challenges faced across the voluntary and community sector and the importance of effective partnerships with the health and care system in our region to learn from each other and innovate, influence change and access resources and funding.  

I have now been a member of VONNE’s Health and Wellbeing team for one year. During that time, it’s been very clear to me that, as a sector, VCSE organisations face real and quite unique challenges when it comes to our workforce. These can seem even more stark when we are trying to work in partnership across our health and care system, as we compare and contrast with our partners.

Workforce changes resulting from the pandemic have meant an already tight labour market has become even tighter. Recruitment remains difficult, and the constant funding merry-go-round means retaining skilled and experienced staff is a continual challenge for many in the sector. The fragmented nature of the VCSE also means it can be hard to provide progression and development opportunities. Add to this the impact of Brexit and a cost-of-living crisis and we seem to have a perfect storm.

That all sounds a bit doom and gloom. But we also have a brilliant, highly committed workforce of workers and volunteers.

So how and why should we collaborate as a sector to tackle those thorny workforce issues. For me, there are several good reasons for working more collaboratively on this:

  1. Influence change – especially when it comes to working with partners in a system-wide approach. To be taken seriously, and to be better understood, we need to join forces, agree priorities and formulate our collective thinking.
  2. Learn from each other and innovate – there is so much diversity across the sector, in terms of what we do, how we do it and who does it for us. Pooling those ideas and experiences will help us collectively find solutions to some of our workforce challenges.
  3. Achieve scale – many of us work in very small organisations, which makes us agile and responsive, but there are times when we can do more together.
  4. Access resources and funding – by working together we often stand a much better chance of gaining access to vital resources. We do this all the time, partnering for funding bids and so on. And we could do this as a way of accessing support for our HR needs.
  5. Plan more effectively – collaborating, we can use our vast skills and experience to look ahead to what the sector needs in our region, to plan, lobby and advocate for this.

Making it Happen

VONNE’s NENC VCSE Partnership Programme is one way that we can work together more effectively. Along with all the groups working on areas of clinical interest, we also have a Workforce sub-group. This group has been set up for VCSE managers, HR staff and EDI leads to come together every two months. Issues and priorities can then be fed into the Integrated Care System (ICS) through the ICS’s People Group, which brings together leaders from across the health and care system to oversee workforce plans and initiatives. It also means we can help shape the work of the People Group, so that it better reflects VCSE issues and realities.

The next meeting of the Workforce sub-group is on 30th April 2024. To receive an invitation to this and future Workforce sub-groups you can sign up to the group mailing list through this online form and select ‘Join the VCSE Workforce sub-group’.

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