Agenda item

Draft Final Report - The Role of the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) in Supporting Adult Social Care (With a Focus on COVID-19 and Recovery)

The Scrutiny Panel will be asked to consider and approve the content of the draft final report and determine recommendations for submission to the Executive.


The Democratic Services Officer submitted a draft final report and recommendations for the panel’s consideration. 


During discussion, a number of matters were explored, as follows:


  • The use of rooms in Council buildings, VCS premises and businesses within the town.  Consideration was given to:


-        The availability of rooms;

-        Health and safety issues;

-        The Council’s move to Fountain Court and the size and design of that building;

-        Questions as to which organisations would potentially share space; and

-        The number of VCS organisations within Middlesbrough and consequential management of expectations vs. delivery. 


  • Relationship management with the VCS.  Consideration was given to:


-        A previous Link Officer role within Culture and Communities;

-        The role of Link Officer (i.e. what this involved, the level this was offered at and how support could potentially cross directorates within the authority);

-        The link to the VCS through MVDA and the relationship with them;

-        The creation of wider relationships with the VCS;

-        The Council’s Health and Wellbeing Strategy and the bringing together of the whole community;

-        A reduction in Council resources and therefore other potential ways to link in with organisations, such as through the use of technology (e.g. links to the Council website or a related portal);

-        Pre-existing links with community organisations and how these were maintained through first contact in Community Hubs and Libraries; how relationships could be managed through directorates; sign posting and call handling;

-        Volunteer programmes operated by MVDA; and

-        Work that was currently taking place in respect of transforming local communities and the establishment of a network to provide support (reference was made to the work of Ageing Better Middlesbrough and the intended retention of its principles following the programme’s conclusion).


  • Establishing a link between the VCS and the Council’s Emergency Planning team to assist with policy / practice statement development.  Examples of the recent lockdown periods, and other possible events such as a fire breaking out, were provided to demonstrate the importance of having stringent processes in place to ensure that support services could continue.  Reference was made to potential incorporation into existing plans and submission of these to the Emergency Planning Committee.


  • Support in accessing online resources.  Members discussed:


-        Existing teaching programmes to assist people;

-        The diminishing number of people that did not have internet access;

-        The Council’s digital programme to help improve access – and a potential way of targeting support;

-        Programmes delivered by the Staying Put Agency and the challenges associated with encouraging individuals to learn and to keep using provided equipment;

-        The importance of social contact and learning from friends / local support network;

-        The use of personal budgets to fund equipment and then link into social network activity (which was very useful during the pandemic); and

-        The wide variety of needs covered by the circa. 600 VCS organisations within Middlesbrough.


  • The large amount of work involved in establishing and maintaining contact directories, which had previously been undertaken with varying degrees of success.  It was felt that, on the assumption that internet access was in place, it had never been easier to locate and contact local resources / providers. 


  • Resources and funding issues, particularly in the current economic climate.  It was felt that many organisations were struggling at present and there was competition for funding.  Grant funding came with conditions but little advice around how best to utilise the monies, and it was usually an insufficient amount.  There was a view that a mechanism was needed in order for bids to be scrutinised and conditions put in.  Relationships needed to be both collaborative and professional.


  • Social media channels and how the Council could use these to support the VCS.


  • Corporate volunteers. Members discussed:


-        Staff training and development;

-        The impact on resources and potential compounding of existing recruitment issues;

-        Reliance upon the VCS to approach the Council and offer opportunities;

-        Additional costs to the authority; and

-        Promotion / demonstration of the work of the Council.


  • A Member requested that an additional note be added to the report to indicate how vibrant and diverse the VCS in Middlesbrough was, and how it enhanced the service provided to residents.  The panel agreed that this would be added to the conclusions section of the report.


  • A Member made reference to the Welfare Rights service and indicated that it was the only service in Middlesbrough that would support individuals with appeals.  It was requested that further information pertaining to this (i.e. key statistics) be sought and added to the report.  The panel agreed to this.

Following discussion, the following recommendations were agreed for inclusion in the final report:

a)     That exploratory work be undertaken to identify opportunities for more collaborative working between the Council and the VCS, particularly in relation to the availability of meeting space.  To be undertaken by Spring/Summer 2023.

b)     That the Director of Adult Social Care and Health Integration works with LMT to explore the most effective form of relationship management between the Council and the VCS. To be undertaken by Spring/Summer 2023.

c)     That a link between the VCS and the Council’s Emergency Planning Team be established to assist with policy/practice statement development.  To be undertaken by Spring/Summer 2023.

AGREED that, subject to the inclusion of the additional information and agreed recommendations, the final report on ‘The Role of the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) in Supporting Adult Social Care (With a Focus on COVID-19 and Recovery)’ be approved and submitted to the Overview and Scrutiny Board for consideration.

Supporting documents: