The Minister for Health and Social Services has asked officials to work with the voluntary sector to look at how projects and programmes can be funded over multiple years.
The sector working in health and social care very often has single-year funding agreements and this leads to a great deal of uncertainty. For instance, making it difficult to plan ahead, innovate, recruit and retain staff and volunteers.
A number of issues were discussed at the recent meeting between the Minister, the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, the Deputy Minister for Mental Health and the Voluntary Sector Health, and the Social Care Planning Group (a network of voluntary sector representatives involved in health and social care). The sector expressed concern about the budget cuts that Health Boards and local authorities have been asked to find and spoke about how they should be a significant partner in the conversation around finding solutions to shared challenges.
THE MAIN ‘ASK’
The main ‘ask’ from the sector at the meeting was for the Minister and Deputy Ministers to promote the revised Code of Practice for Funding the Third Sector to their officials, health boards, local authorities and Regional Partnership Boards, and to hold those public bodies to account against the principles of the Code. The subject of the importance of multi-annual funding arrangements arose as part of this discussion. The Minister expressed understanding as to the issues single-year funding can cause sector organisations and has instructed her officials to pursue this agenda further in conjunction with WCVA and the voluntary sector.
Elsewhere in the conversation, the Minister and the sector discussed:
- The importance of treating the voluntary sector as an equal partner, and the importance of using funding from the Regional Integration Fund (RIF) efficiently and effectively – with Regional Partnership Boards ensuring a minimum of 20% is invested in social value sector organisations.
- The need for contracts to set out clear outcomes, but for Commissioners to trust and empower the voluntary sector to determine how services are best delivered.
- The difference that the voluntary sector can make in the area of hospital discharge.
- Issues around getting community voices heard by the statutory sector to help prevent and reduce health inequalities in policy and practice.
Kate Young, Director of the All Wales Forum of Parents and Carers, and TSPC Health and Social Care representative, said:
‘As a sector, we were pleased to hear the view that third sector organisations being treated as equal partners is shared by the Ministers. It is vital the Funding Code of Practice becomes the backbone for how public sector services work to co-design and commission services. There are choppy waters ahead for communities and services to navigate, but if we do it with transparency and early engagement, we can ensure that the third sector does not become an unintended casualty, but remains a strong and resilient core partner in the delivery of service solutions and good practice.’
The Group submitted a paper to Welsh Government ahead of this meeting, titled Navigating budget cuts: the role of the third sector as key partners.