The Prime Minister has asked Danny Kruger MP to consult with civil society to develop proposals to strengthen and develop the Voluntary, Community and Faith Sector as part of the COVID-19 recovery phase.

As Haringey Council’s Strategic Partner for the Voluntary and Community Sector, Bridge Renewal Trust has submitted a response to support Danny Kruger MP's recommendations.

These proposals have been developed between partners in the voluntary, community and faith organisations as well as council officers.

Please see the full letter below.

Haringey Voluntary, Community and Faith sector’s submission to your review of the role of Civil Society

Bridge Renewal Trust is a local charity, based in south Tottenham in the London Borough of Haringey. For the last ten years, we have worked with Haringey Council as their strategic partner and others in our own sector to reduce health inequalities, build stronger communities and improve the quality of life for Haringey residents.

Haringey’s Voluntary, Community and Faith sector is vibrant and diverse, made up of over 1000 organisations who work to support communities across the borough.

Throughout the COVID-19 period, local VCS (Voluntary & Community Sector) organisations adapted quickly and worked together in an agile and responsive way to address a range of complex challenges caused or exacerbated by the outbreak of the virus. These challenges will I’m sure be familiar to you; social isolation, mental ill health and access to food and essential supplies.

COVID-19 has presented a unique set of problems, but also many opportunities for us to test and try out new approaches. Our relationships with both the council and voluntary sector partners have seen a plethora of new and innovative approaches to working and not least, a notable reduction in bureaucracy.

This period has also re-focused attention on the importance of what we really mean by ‘Civil Society’ in terms of building strong and resilient communities.

In order to build upon this enthusiasm and local learning, we want to recommend the following proposals to you, to maximise the role of Civil Society in supporting communities.
These proposals have been developed between partners in the voluntary, community and faith organisations as well as council officers. They focus on three key themes – resourcing, volunteering, and connectivity:

  • View community spaces as part of a core-funding offer, with sustainable long-term funding commitments
  • Provide support for community spaces to become fully accessible to enable a diverse range of groups to utilise and share spaces
  • Work to ensure available funding streams are accessible all sizes of organisations, with quicker and more agile application processes, to ensure funds can support innovative ways of working
  • Encourage local giving schemes supported by match funding from larger corporate organisations

  • View co-production as key to the continued success of community development and work to create a collective vision for this across civic society
  • Create networks (including digital platforms) which encourage and enable community organisations to participate in co-production and delivering services together
  • o Prioritise digital connectivity for all, as to support new models of service delivery and job creation
  • Promote the excellent work being delivered by civic society and provide a platform to connect philanthropists and businesses to organisations delivering this work
  • Work to provide volunteering opportunities which equip young people with the skills needed to become entrepreneurs, with an increased focus on the value of creativity
  • Raise awareness of how volunteering can develop skills for future employment, both with individuals and organisations
  • Explore and promote the use of alternative currencies (such as time credits) to support people to be able to access volunteering and work placement opportunities

Why we need the proposals in Haringey (and beyond)?

The outbreak of COVID-19 has seen a large increase in demand for services locally, and the VCS and statutory sector in Haringey has responded incredibly well, particularly around emergency food distribution and essential supplies.

The last few months have seen an increase in available funding streams to support work, which has necessitated the need for organisations to respond quickly and be agile and flexible in their approach. The local Voluntary & Community Sector has shown with great aplomb, its ability to do this, time and again.

As we move to a recovery phase there is a strong desire to retain this agility and reduce the ‘red-tape’ in accessing all forms of support and capacity building to ensure equitable access to services for all our diverse communities.

While community spaces have been closed during this time, COVID-19 has brought into focus the need for community connectedness – during this period we have increasingly had to rely on neighbours and support groups to access basic essentials. As we emerge into a recovery phase there is an increased need to value the role of community spaces in bringing people together to build connections.

For our proposals to work effectively, both in the short and longer term, our sector, knowledge and skills need to be valued and supported.