WCVA’s Chief Executive Ruth Marks has written to Welsh Government to highlight the importance of the voluntary sector in achieving the aims of its new Co-operation Agreement with Plaid Cymru. Here’s what we said…
‘Last week, Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru published a Co-operation Agreement. The Agreement is wide-ranging and covers a correspondingly wide range of policy areas. Many of these policy areas have close links to the work of the voluntary sector, whether local community groups or larger international charities.
‘A vibrant voluntary sector is beneficial to delivering changes to public services such as those laid out in the Agreement. Community groups and charities can amplify the voices of people who receive services, especially those from marginalised groups who are often excluded from policy-making. Voluntary sector groups also provide activities which contribute specifically to wellbeing, even though this may not be their specific aim. Voluntary sector organisations often work with individuals who are facing significant disadvantage, and can be the distrustful of or detached from the public sector.
‘There are also a number of aspects in the Agreement where the voluntary sector will need to be involved in the work to ensure its ambitious outcomes have the greatest possible impact. These include; the proposals around the future of social care, homelessness, the community food strategy, the culture strategy, supporting the Welsh language, mental health, strengthening the rights of disabled people, and the action plans for race equality and the LGBTQ+ community. In each case, voluntary sector engagement in policy-making and delivery will improve the ability of these services to reach the people who need them.
‘In Wales, there has historically been strong partnership between the voluntary sector and policy-making, including constructive engagement with politicians of all parties. As a result, the voluntary sector and community groups are often engaged in early discussion with civil servants and this has led to improved services. The Third Sector Partnership Council and Welsh Government has also recently begun a piece of work aiming to strengthen these links across the public sector.
‘WCVA would strongly encourage you to engage with the voluntary sector in developing and implementing the policy in this Agreement. We would recommend that this includes early engagement with the sector across each aspect of the Agreement, as well as ensuring the capacity of the voluntary sector to support with delivery where that is appropriate.
‘WCVA would also encourage consideration of the specific role that volunteering can play in some of these areas. Whilst volunteers cannot be seen as a replacement for paid staff, they can complement this activity and there are numerous examples of where volunteer-led activity has delivered real benefits to people and their communities.
‘Finally, there are many groups, often grassroots community groups, who contribute to the wellbeing of people in Wales. These numerous small groups, who positively impact on community life in Wales, often do not have the governance structures or capacity to receive direct advice or support from the Welsh Government. However, we are able to include them in our work as a result of the robust network of County Voluntary Councils across Wales. These links between community groups and the Welsh Government strengthen the role the sector can play in improving wellbeing.
‘WCVA, as the national membership body for the voluntary sector in Wales, is keen to support discussions between the public sector and the voluntary sector across the full range of functions identified in the Agreement.’