How awards can help: Guest blog from Sally Young, Chief Executive of Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service

Sally Young NCVSSally Young is Chief Executive of the Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service (NCVS), the key infrastructure organisation for the voluntary and community sector in Newcastle. She is a trustee for the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) and the Community Foundation (Tyne & Wear and Northumberland). NCVS won the Local Compact Partnership award at the 2014 Compact Awards for their work with Newcastle City Council in developing the New Newcastle Compact.
 
Find out how to submit a nomination for the 2015 Compact Awards here.
 


Winning an award, however cheesy it might appear, is always good for morale. It signifies some recognition from and by your peers and others, and clearly has PR value. Locally it's also acted as a bargaining tool, in that it is easier to get others, such as our Police and Crime Commissioner, to sign up to the new Newcastle Compact, knowing that they can stick the award on their website, signature, and other publicity. Crude I know, but it works!
 
It would be wrong to say the development of the new Compact was easy – in fact it would have been much easier to borrow another Compact and change the place name. However, it was precisely the process of sitting together with others in a room on several occasions, and hammering out just what certain commitments meant and why they couldn’t be dropped, that helped develop mutual understanding and consensus. And then having got that agreement with the former Primary Care Trust (PCT) representative, we had to do it all over again with the new Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) director – irritating but worthwhile. This helped all of us to develop a clearer understanding of our respective and mutual responsibilities, liabilities and priorities.
 
For us in Newcastle, an award for partnership working has never been needed more. The City Council has lost nearly 30% of its revenue budget since 2010, with even more sweeping cuts to come; I genuinely believe the only way we can fight austerity is through partnership.
 
These cuts have meant job losses and personnel changes and the key voluntary sector officer at the Council has left. Having the Compact Award has given us some currency to ensure the Committee (Voluntary Sector Liaison Group) still meets. The importance of this is that senior councillors (cabinet members) are obliged to meet formally and systematically with key voluntary sector leads, and to listen, engage, discuss, disagree and consider joint issues. We find this more important than ever as most of the traditional forums, such as working groups, have been disbanded.
 
One of the frustrations of engagement has been with the NHS. Again, the constant reorganisation  (we had an additional change to CCG boundaries this year), changes in staffing, and their own internal pressures means there is insufficient understanding of the value of the voluntary and community sector, particularly in relation to prevention. The Compact allows us to indicate best practice and start a dialogue. I believe the new Compact in Newcastle was a key factor behind the recent decision to have three year CCG contracts with voluntary organisations. I will continue to fight for grants as I believe they are a vital and necessary way of investing in communities, and enable innovative and flexible working, often with those communities that statutory services find very hard to reach.
 
To me the purpose of the Compact is to get on and make things happen.
 
So should you submit a nomination? Yes, I think so. The process of writing the application makes you think about what's been achieved and why, it's good for morale and PR, but most importantly it's a shared activity and we need more joint working in the hard times ahead.
 
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