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Stella Scott, chief executive officer of Erewash Voluntary Action based at the Granville Centre in Long Eaton, has worked in the voluntary and community sector for many years and is playing an instrumental role in the Wellbeing Erewash projects that link in with this sector. Here, Stella tells us all about the opportunities being presented by this new way of working...

“Wellbeing Erewash has been amazing. We’ve been able to raise the profile of the voluntary and community sector so it’s not just seen as a worthy cause but as something ‘professional’ tackling key issues. I might be really sad about this but I even enjoy the meetings we attend. It feels like we’re valued and being listened to. 

"An example is as part of the STP (sustainability and transformation plan) which the vanguard links into: our hearing impaired community who are part of Quality for Health (a voluntary sector ‘accreditation’ programme) were coming to us and saying that messages about being directed to the 111 phone service were no good for them, they need to be able to communicate via writing or through a signer. Through Wellbeing Erewash we’ve had some quick wins and now we’re working on projects to advance some longer term wins. I’m hoping that over the next 12 months that this is the year we finally crack it – I’d hate to go back to where we were. 

“The remit of Erewash Voluntary Action within Wellbeing Erewash is to help strengthen the voluntary sector. By doing this we will help the clinical commissioning group and partners deliver on the NHS Five Year Forward View providing services which are more community-based. It can be a huge challenge for some voluntary sector organisations to work in this way. They exist for reasons of a driving passion rather than the need to hit a particular NHS target. Our challenge at Erewash Voluntary Action is to help the voluntary organisations deliver in a manner which meets the requirements of the statutory sector.

Voluntary sector initiatives

“There are several strands to this; one is Quality for Health, which is a ‘quality mark’ for the voluntary sector. Achieving Quality for Health demonstrates that the organisation has a strong board, strong ethics, sound principles and they work with their service users in a person-centred way. We’ve got 13 groups signed up at the moment and we’ve just had another nine groups on the latest cohort. This was all part of helping deliver Rakesh Marwaha’s (chief accountable officer, Erewash CCG) vision of a strong and vibrant voluntary sector.

“Another strand is the Erewash Voluntary Sector Forum which brings together the bigger voluntary sector organisations across Erewash. What we are trying to do now is to arrange a voluntary sector conference to bring together some of the bigger groups to see how we can work together better. If future working is to be more ‘place-based’ how can we as partner organisations come together and say as a partnership we can deliver this together? Erewash Voluntary Action will have a central role as an infrastructure organisation to bring together these players. We can act as the co-ordinator and provide a central voice. What we would like to see more if possible is the NHS getting back to us and being able to demonstrate how it has responded to the views of the voluntary sector. It’s getting there but we’ve still got some way to go on that one.

“We have the Erewash Development Workers Network which supports anyone on the frontline working with the public and service users across Erewash. This network is designed to share information because people don't know what they don't know. It brings together about 70 workers so that they know who’s doing what and they’ve got someone to signpost their client to.

Community connectors

“A newer project is the community connectors which is being led by Jo Hallam. When we staged our original four conferences for Wellbeing Erewash we brought together people who live and work in the area. We started to ‘asset map’ establishing what exists in Erewash, what’s good about Erewash, and came up with a whole map of services and facilities including things like canals and parks. The whole thing that came out of it again is that people don’t know what they don’t know. The community connectors will be out and about building up the connections, making the links, helping social groups get off the ground. We want to ease the rigour and process of establishing community groups and building support networks. Sometimes the system makes people get bank accounts, form committees, hold meetings and take minutes, when all they want to do is set up a scrabble group and have a coffee with friends. We think the community connectors will be like a ‘triple word score’ – adding value many times over!

“With the community connectors we’re trying to look at health as a social movement. So if someone wants to set up a knit and natter group, then we want to say here’s a small amount of money, here’s some needles, wool and patterns, go and create a social group – with all the benefits for health and wellbeing that come as a result. Jo is helping find the connectors in their community who will know how to signpost people to activities and if there are any gaps then they’ll work with people to set up an activity.

“One of the first events that the connectors have been involved in was the Petersham poll day, when Jo and colleagues went out to Petersham in Long Eaton and asked local people what it was like living there, what are its assets and what sort of things they would like to see which would benefit the community. This project will be very much driven by the people of Petersham, using the assets they have, and seeing what can be done. It’s exciting because there’s no pre-determined outcome of how this project might shape up.

Linking up with the NHS

“All of this work is helping Erewash Voluntary Action and the wider voluntary sector community get more involved in the workings of the NHS. We feel we are better able through Wellbeing Erewash to influence local services and improve people’s health and wellbeing. I certainly think other CVS colleagues across Derbyshire are aware of what we are beginning to achieve here – they keep telling me they’re sick of ‘Erewash this and Erewash that’ in a jokey way of course! It feels like we’re getting there, the next year will truly tell how successful it’s been. We need to keep aiming high, stick to our principles and put the community at the forefront.

“We need to keep building on what we’ve already got. What I wouldn’t want to do in a year’s time is to lose that drive. I’ve been in the voluntary sector a long time and seen so many projects come and go - they’re thrown money at it, built all the infrastructure and then the money’s gone and everything goes back to how it was. We can’t let that happen this time. I’m proud to be working in Erewash and equally proud to be part of Wellbeing Erewash. Let’s seize this opportunity.” 

For further information

Contact Stella via email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Visit the website www.erewashvoluntaryaction.org.uk 

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