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Voluntary Sector Development Fund (£100,000)

Future Funds

Portfolio: Health and Partnerships Portfolio

One off investment

The fund will help develop new initiatives with the Voluntary Sector in particular in respect of support to vulnerable children.

[Reference: Cabinet papers, Item 6, paragraph 53(r)]



Keywords: voluntary sector VCS

Related FAQs

What will be the impact on voluntary organisations such as Citizen’s Advice, Age UK, GADD? What happens if they close?

What will be the impact on voluntary organisations such as Citizen’s Advice, Age UK, GADD? What happens if they close?

We fully support the work of our voluntary sector partners and hope to continue to work with them in the future. However, the financial situation is such that the Council is not able to continue funding these organisations at current levels. The likely impact of the budget proposals on these organisations is currently being identified, following discussions with the organisations most affected. We hope that they are able to continue their work by looking at where they can make further cost and efficiency savings, but we appreciate that in some cases this may not be possible and it will therefore mean a reduction in the support they can offer to the residents of Darlington.  It could lead to the closure of organisations if they are unable to make the necessary changes for them to be sustainable, which will be very regrettable. We want to avoid this happening and we will support organisations making grant applications where we can. We will also be undertaking work to understand the impact of any reductions in service on individuals accessing them. 

Your Say

7 comment(s)

This table lists comments from the public about this proposal


FF 53r (Voluntary Sector Development Fund)

Just wanted to flag up some work we do that DBC senior management might not be aware that we do, but which is of benefit to them – and whether there is scope to get some funding from the VSDF.

We provide support for ‘Looked After Children/Care leavers’ to support them into Education Employment and Training and have been very effective in this area.

Since last summer we have worked with 23 young people and 19 are now engaged in Education, Employment and Apprenticeships.

Think this may be an area of work that DBC would be interested in funding in the future.

Not sure if this is the sort of idea you were looking for and would be happy to provide more information if it was.

FF 53r (Voluntary Sector Development Fund)

This money needs to be looked at more holistically and consideration given to supporting innovative ideas which aim to generate income into the voluntary sector to reverse some of the budget cuts and bring in more than the initial £100k investment. Such ideas could support a wide range of services such as childrens centres, services for vulnerable groups which are facing significant cuts this year.

FF 53r (Voluntary Sector Development Fund)


The proposed Budget Cuts are already being felt right across the voluntary and community sector with some organisations being hit harder than others. Some organisations are able to absorb the impact of reduced spending, but due to low levels of financial resilience across the sector and no longer the support from a CVS infrastructure organisation, many cannot. When organisations are forced to close, which many are facing, they cannot simply be re-created if a tendering process happens at some point in the future. Their unique skills, connections with people and their relationships with the people they serve will disappear forever.

It is absolutely crucial for charitable organisations to think about diversifying their income streams because becoming too dependent on traditional public sector grants has proved a massive risk for organisations. It is time for the voluntary and community sector organisations to take a step back, consider what they stand for and what the borough of Darlington stands to lose if they are no longer in existence. The sector needs to take back control and work together to do this independently.

Healthwatch Darlington propose, along with other VCSO’s through a sub group of the VCSO Strategic Implementation Group to establish an investment infrastructure “The Darlington Fund” where our residents and businesses pledge to donate to the Voluntary and Community Sector via standing order or corporate donations in order to invest in their community for non statutory services which make such a difference to the health and wellbeing of our residents. The residents and businesses of Darlington need to understand the impact of the budget cuts if the VSO’s were no longer providing the much needed support to our communities, our children, our families, our most vulnerable and our easily overlooked citizens including our BME Communities.

“I am Darlington” will be a tag line of which every investor in the borough will be proud to be associated.

Identifying influencers and starting conversations on social media, face to face and via as many media outlets as possible will be a massive part of this project and will be a good catalyst for action. The initial DBC investment and town support for such a ground-breaking concept including identifying the right motivators and leaders within the sector will enable our communities’ voice to shine through. People fund people, not ideas and our aim is to inspire others to collaborate in order for their investments to drive community initiatives which will safeguard the future sustainability of our voluntary and community sector.

FF 53r (Voluntary Sector Development Fund)


The community asset based approach asserts that it is the duty of the public sector to facilitate the conditions within which people, families and communities can more easily become the primary investors in their own and each other’s future while at the same time remaining confident that services will be there as back-up if needed. With that in mind, we need to ascertain what assets, skills and expertise we already have in the voluntary sector to avoid reinventing the wheel and investing public money into a darkened money pit with lots of enthusiasm but very little impact.

Darlington’s future sustainability depends on the movers and shakers in our society, the innovators, the individuals leading teams who want to make things happen for the right reasons and not to empire build their organisations to create a great turnover figure but with little influence where we need it most. This is about our community and what our community can do to help in these times of austerity.


Voluntary Sector and Public Health budget cuts for non-mandatory activity will have a detrimental effect on the most vulnerable in our society. Emotional resilience, social inclusion, self-help, advice, community safety, healthy lifestyles, all will be greatly reduced and that is just the tip of the iceberg. The health and wellbeing of our population is already beginning to suffer and the knock on effect for NHS services will be felt for years to come unless we look for a credible solution now, using the assets we already have.

Much of the community asset inspired activity continues without any need for public funding, but with a more structured collaboration and signposting route from grassroots activities to the more organised level at which staff teams are employed and more funding is invested, commissioners will be presented with new and innovative models of provision that tick the key box – prevention.

Darlington no longer has a Voluntary & Community Sector (VCS) infrastructure organisation, leading to smaller Front Line Organisations (FLO’s) and groups being easily overlooked in the health and wellbeing sector when in fact they can be the lifeline of a community. Healthwatch Darlington have the infrastructure in place to connect local people to the wide spectrum of services and support in the VCS.

Healthwatch Darlington is a facilitator of collaboration and we have been striving to help establish a single shared vision for the Sector and re-set the strategic direction for the support of Darlington's frontline voluntary & community organisations - to realise the value of its people and build resilient communities.

We already have a very successful BME Health Connector project which is growing in number month by month. We are reaching out to the easily overlooked and vulnerable. Our connectors are supported by a Project Officer who identifies the connectors in a community and provides them with the training and support needed to help our volunteers weave the fabric of the neighbourhood together through hundreds of ‘conversations’ with individuals, groups, informal clubs and other social networks.

We uncover people’s strengths, issues, concerns, stories, ideas, hopes, skills, passions and resources. People form themselves into action groups, making sure that between them they have the commitment and all the skills they need to succeed. We are nurturing closer connections within our community through council departments, schools, other public sector bodies, faith groups, businesses, informal clubs, self-help, community and voluntary groups.

Our Children and Young People Project “Youthwatch” has been so successful that we have been commissioned to carry out research and engagement on behalf of DBC and the CCG, with children, young people, parents, carers and stakeholders for the Mental Health C & YP Transformation Plan. The results will hopefully heavily influence the transformation of services for C & YP in Darlington and have allowed us to create some good networks of engagement with young people and community groups.

We have plans (if successful with external funding) to enhance our Youthwatch project with a drop in ‘Health & Wellbeing Hub’ which will be a one stop information point for children and young people living in Darlington including all health, wellbeing and social care services information. We will provide a website page, Facebook page and Twitter page so information can be easily accessed from where ever they are. The webpage will consist of an easy to read list of health & social care services with a wellbeing section. The wellbeing section will be full of telephone numbers and help lines for various wellbeing topics such as drugs & alcohol, mental health, sexual health, smoking, anti-social behaviour, how to report crimes, and bullying. The webpage will also include a wellbeing activities section which will list activities and groups in the area that can boost self-esteem and assist with emotional resilience.

We already know that person and community centred approaches encompass a diverse range of preventative activities which can be delivered by the sector. We want to be able to build stronger, resilient and active communities connecting with local groups with the help of volunteers trained as “Wellbeing Connectors”, who will work in partnership with residents to encourage self-management, increase independence and enhance a sense of wellbeing. Our HWD team have a wealth of expertise and can evidence impact measured interventions that work for local people.

We know that the Better Care Fund’s key priority this year is to ensure we have a strong community support network in the third sector. HWD was very much part of the award winning team for the Frail/Elderly MDT’s. We know that the Good Friends and Darlington Cares have enjoyed some success and reached a number of vulnerable individuals and community organisations throughout the year, but in order for these pilot projects to be sustainable, we need a more co-ordinated and independent structure that needs to earn its credibility by being accountable and owned by frontline groups who know the people, the local priorities and the patch.

HWD already have an excellent track record in representing our population and influencing local commissioners and providers. We have brought about change, we’ve networked and linked with others on common causes and issues and we signpost to sources of support and information on a daily basis. We work effectively across public agency and policy silos, and aside from our statutory duties, we want to connect more to the fragmented array of frontline groups, to unite the sector into an understanding of strategic engagement processes that provide opportunities that value and develop clear independent support models, operated with a rounded, conscious understanding of local and non-local strategic contexts.

The little funding available to the voluntary and community sector should be used intelligently to provide opportunities that add value. One of the ways to increase financial resilience is through our previous suggestion (posted on the feedback portal) regarding “The Darlington Fund”. This is very much driven by a small number of VCSE organisations willing to collaborate and work together for the community rather than their individual organisations. The Darlington Fund, as well as empowering communities, will act as a broker for the voluntary and community sector whilst also possessing the expertise and potential to support small organisations in funding, impact business case, legal issues and business and strategic planning. Healthwatch Darlington is very much part of this innovative idea to develop the voluntary sector in Darlington.

However, HWD is also best placed within the very heart of the health and social care sector, and by being a totally independent organisation, with the voice of the people at the core of what we do, we can provide a very impartial view for commissioners when working with potential providers of community services such as the BCF “social prescribing” approach. By working in collaboration with our VCSE organisations we can identify the most effective partners to help implement non-clinical options for individuals to support their health and wellbeing, and to empower the individuals to make these choices in partnership with the professionals.

HWD have a wealth of expertise within our small part time team and we have proved our contract management skills are open, transparent, credible and deliverable. VCS development funding invested in HWD, (from DBC and the CCG), especially taking into account future VCS expectations regarding Healthy New Towns, Better Health Programme, Better Care Fund and the Sustainable Transformation Plan, will enable us to establish with a full time team the much needed independent, well respected, sustainable, embedded infrastructure that Darlington is clearly lacking.

Healthwatch Darlington - Registered Charity 1156388 Company 8714438
CVS Building – Church Row – Darlington – DL1 5QD
01325 380145

FF 53r (Voluntary Sector Development Fund)

Our Darlington : A Movement for Collective Responsibility. Why? We believe that the solution to the budget problem lies within the hands of Darlington people. Currently the stability and long term viability of Darlington is threatened by reducing support from central government. As “Our Darlington” we will take back the initiative and take collective responsibility for our community – and change the future, so that it is not the 7th best place to live in the North East, but the best We believe that the budget problem in Darlington is a problem of income not expenditure. Services are being cut to satisfy a budget, not because they are not needed by the people of Darlington. We believe that the austerity agenda demands a radical and imaginative reshaping of the way in which non-statutory services are paid for. The Medium Term Financial Plan runs until 2020, by which it is probable that all non-statutory funding will have disappeared. The absence of non-statutory provision will affect the life quality of every member of the community, both directly and indirectly. To maintain a strong, inclusive and supportive community, in which every citizen (including the vulnerable) has an investment and from which everyone gains, immediate and collective action is required. We believe in local services for local people. We want to live in a town where all citizens are valued and have a place What? A new community income stream. (The “Our Darlington” Fund). Currently, local authority services for people in Darlington are essentially dependent upon two income streams, the central government grant and rates. The proposal is for a third and substantial income stream – a people’s fund, that sustains the fabric of communal living – supporting the vulnerable, sustaining the vital services provided by the voluntary and community sector, but at the same time building upon those things that make Darlington a safe and good place to live, where there flowers on the roundabout, where Christmas is celebrated, where the pride and vibrancy of the community is a magnet for people to invest and put roots down in the town. The “Our Darlington” Fund will benefit every person in Darlington. The loss of services envisaged through the Medium Term Financial Plan will destroy the social infrastructure of the town, making it a far less attractive place to do business, to live, and to spend leisure time. The “Our Darlington” Fund will not be used to supplement Statutory Services The ”Our Darlington” Fund will be the embodiment of true cross-sector partnership, working with the statutory and commercial sectors to achieve a valued and a positive benefit for all - a partnership that empowers the whole community and positively contributes to the wellbeing of all, a partnership which gives back greater control over service decisions and resources to the community in which those services are delivered. How? “Our Darlington” will seek pump-priming finance. Money will be used to pay for professional services to help us reach every Darlington citizen and win hearts and minds. We will create ‘belief’ and ownership of the “Our Darlington” brand as a people’s fund. We will use the strength and reach of the Voluntary and Community Sector to ensure we capture the Darlington audience.” Individuals will be asked to commit to a minimum of £2 / week to the “Our Darlington” Fund as their commitment to Darlington. Mechanism will be put in place to make payment straightforward. (Tentative feasibility conversations with the most vulnerable citizens, those on benefit, as well as those who are better off, suggest unequivocal support for the proposal). Businesses in Darlington will be asked to commit 1% of profits to the “Our Darlington” Fund as their commitment to Darlington. The fund will be promoted as a Civic duty. It will build on the “Our Darlington” core values of civic pride, civic responsibility, civic commitment. Building on shared community values, we will aim to involve Credit Union as actively as possible. “Our Darlington” will belong to the people of Darlington. The Trustees will develop mechanisms to listen to what the community wants in terms of services etc. The Fund will belong to local people – and therefore local people will have mechanisms to directly influence expenditure. Governance of the “Our Darlington” Fund will reside with a Board of Trustees (to be appointed). It will work in partnership with local government, but will be distinct from it. Administration of the Fund will rely primarily upon the skills and knowledge of the voluntary and community sector, while at the same time working with partners (i.e., local authority and commercial sector) to identify needs, to commission and to monitor services – but when it comes to budget time, the community sector would bring not only its expertise but its resources to the table … a true model of co-production”.

FF 52k (Financial and debt advice and welfare rights services)
FF 53r (Voluntary Sector Development Fund)
Cut S14 (Strategic Grant Budget)

This is a transcription of comments made during the public meetings held during the budget consultation:

Q: The current value of homeless prevention work the CAB do is mitigating the local authority’s statutory duty to house, which left unsupported would result in the local authority spending more than £3m. Has the council made provision for the extra cost of this?

A (Cllr Copeland): The CAB offers excellent advice and support, Age UK offers excellent advice and support. We have our own housing options staff within the council and also have our own welfare officers, who assist in making sure people get the right allowances they are entitled to. I appreciate it’s going to be a reduced service. I have the largest part of the council’s budget [in my portfolio], although most of my statutory, I still have to put something in the pot to assist, otherwise we will just wipe out Street Scene altogether and do nothing in parks etc. But, if that’s what you would like, then that’s the suggestion you make – that we save whatever happens in the way of advice to CAB and we stop doing something else. If you want us to keep something, then we have got to let something else go.
A (Cllr Scott): We completely understand the concerns about the impact on the voluntary sector. We’ve got some proposals, some add-backs, because we recognise the value of that sector. One of those is the voluntary sector development fund, where we’ve put aside £100k to develop some of the things like back office and sharing functions between organisations.

Q: I do not want you to stop paying into something to help something else. Why not just reduce things a little and put some of it into CAB?
A (Cllr Dixon): That’s what this exercise is about. We’ve got the Core Offer and we’re trying to find out what we can do as far as the add-backs are concerned.

FF 53r (Voluntary Sector Development Fund)

This is a transcription of a comment made during the public meetings held during the budget consultation:

Q; This is a great town, there are many volunteers. I want to know how you will decide which voluntary sector areas you will support and which you will not

A: We are doing impact assessments on the impact of all the cuts and the assessments on the voluntary sector are not ready yet. We have done a desk top exercise but we need to hear from them. We understand they do a hugely valuable job. We are already putting an add back of £50k for benefit advice but there is much more to do.