To receive a presentation from Mr. Greg Alexander on the activities and working arrangements of the service.
The Panel welcomed Mr. Greg Alexander, Chief Executive Officer of Rushmoor Voluntary Services, who attended the meeting to give an update on the activities and working arrangements of Rushmoor Voluntary Services (RVS).
It was advised that RVS was a charity that provided help and support to other charities and voluntary organisations, championed volunteering and ran the Rushmoor Volunteer Centre. RVS had 410 member organisations, an increase of 21% in the previous five years. It was felt that the growing membership was very positive and endorsed the key role of RVS in the Borough. RVS was currently funded through grants from Rushmoor Borough Council and Hampshire County Council; which enabled it to manage projects funded separately from grants and contracts that delivered community benefits.
Mr. Alexander reported on the work and projects of RVS, these included:
· Group Support, Training and Development – Group support through the provision of information and support to groups, that related to new projects, identification of funding streams and the creation of partnership opportunities. Training had been provided to 361 individuals from 94 organisations through the delivery of courses such as first aid, food hygiene, lone working and adult safeguarding. RVS also had a Development Officer who provided support to members and worked in the community with partners on a range of things, in particular key neighbourhood projects, community cohesion and links between groups and partner organisations.
· Volunteer Centre – The priority of the centre had been to place members of the public into volunteering and, through work with RVS members, to develop future volunteering opportunities. The outreach service based at Aldershot Library and Techstart had continued to identify new volunteers in the Aldershot area. Annually RVS hosted a recognition event at the Council Offices to celebrate different aspects of volunteering, in 2014 young volunteers had been recognised and for 2015 it would be the hard work of Board members and Trustees of local organisations.
· Blooming Marvellous – this project provided a valuable service to people with or recovering from mental illness. The group worked on a community garden based at the Aldershot allotments and carried out a range of gardening services for elderly and disabled residents. The Panel noted that funding for this project had been secured for a further three years through Broadhurst Welcome Home Ltd.
· Broadhurst Community Access Project – this initiative supported local people and provided essential support of life skills and other relevant issues. Funding had also been secured for this project for a further three years through Broadhurst Welcome Home Ltd.
· RVS Home Help – This service provided home cleaning and shopping services to elderly and frail people in the Borough. Clients were referred through health care professionals and adult services and users were charged for the service. The current client base was 358 individuals. Partial funding for users on benefits had in the past been provided by Hampshire County Council’s “Supporting People” initiative but this had stopped in March 2015. As a consequence, communication had been taking place with those affected to try and ensure that they could continue to receive the service.
· Transport – RVS were responsible for the provision of Rushmoor Dial-a-Ride and Fleet Link. The service, which operated under contract with Hampshire County Council, provided transport for residents unable to use or without access to public transport. It was noted that trips to places of interest were arranged as an extra service for uses. The Community Transport Scheme also allowed member voluntary organisations and groups to hire minibuses at low cost. The scheme had been supported by volunteer drivers who were all fully Minibus Driver Awareness (MiDAS) trained. Over 1170 trips were made under the scheme per year.
Mr. Alexander gave an overview of the RVS Annual Review for 2014/15. Highlights of the report included:
· £357,785 in external funding received by RVS members for projects
· 410 member organisations
· 228 volunteers placed by the Volunteer Centre
· 279 individuals trained on accredited courses
· 82 volunteer MiDAS trained minibus drivers
· 69 clients of the Blooming Marvellous group of which there were 36 volunteers positively engaged in the project
· Six days per week of transportation provided by Dial-a-Ride, Fleet Link and Hart Shopper
It was also noted that during the autumn/winter of 2014/15 RVS had worked in partnership with Hampshire County Council (HCC), Basingstoke Voluntary Action and Hart Voluntary Action to develop a cluster of “Councils for Voluntary Service” (CVS’) in North Hampshire. The plan would be to work together on initiatives, to strengthen partnership working and address priorities, as set out by HCC to tackle issues related to older people, children and families. It was hoped that these developments would improve efficiencies and create a more targeted approach to the work carried out by RVS.
In summary, Mr. Alexander advised that RVS was providing infrastructure support to voluntary and community groups in the Borough. It helped to build capacity to allow groups to help more residents when statutory services were implementing continued budgetary cuts. RVS was aware of the pressures on local authority funding and grants and had a three year plan that covered its financial and operational areas to allow it to continue working to make a difference in Rushmoor.
In response to a query regarding cuts in grants from the County Council, it was advised that RVS was aware that there would be a 3% reduction in the grant from HCC in 2015 and a further 3% in 2016. These reductions would be followed by a strategic review in 2018.
The Panel discussed supporting young people’s organisations and the five organisations in the Borough that would be most affected by proposed cuts by Hampshire County Council. It was advised that RVS was working with the charities/organisations to bring them together to avoid duplication and to identify joint priorities when applying for grants in the future. It was suggested that “Crowdfunding” could be considered going forward; this was a new initiative which involved funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people, typically via the internet. It was also noted that other cluster groups of interest could be identified for similar initiatives.
In response to a question on the home help service and volunteers’ ability to identify clients that could be suffering from mental health issues, it was advised that volunteers didn’t have any formal training in this area and the centre relied on common sense. However, all clients were asked to sign a declaration stating that they gave their permission, for any concerns identified by the volunteer to be passed on to their next of kin or a medical professional.
· An update on funding streams for Rushmoor Voluntary Services be given at a future meeting.
Panel Administrator/Chief Executive Officer Rushmoor Voluntary Services
The Chairman thanked Mr. Alexander for his presentation.