Guest blog: What does a local Compact Officer actually do?

image of kent at compact awardsOur latest guest blog is by Sue Beer, who is part time Compact Officer at CASE Kent. Sue works across four districts in East Kent, and the post is currently supported by a Big Lottery grant. Here Sue discusses the challenges and responsibilities of being a Local Compact Officer.

The Dover District Compact was Highly Commended in the 2011 Compact Awards for their work with Kent Fire and Rescue Service. Read a case study about the project here.

The national Compact is a concise document (thank goodness!) but the work that arises from it is very wide ranging. Because the Compact covers the activities of both the public and voluntary sectors a local Compact Officer can end up doing just about anything to do with cross sector working: be it influencing work, representation, awareness raising, matchmaking and, very occasionally, firefighting.
Central to my own role is of course letting people from the voluntary and community sector (VCS) know where to go if they have a problem. When I am standing in front of an audience I sometimes compare the Compact to insurance – few people care about it until it is suddenly needed.  But actually, I do not spend a lot of time dealing with Compact compliance disputes. I like to think I am an enabler rather than a persuader. 
I work alongside our Networks Support Officer, helping him to identify and then draw in the local authority officers who need to communicate with the VCS. Attending network meetings is always useful anyway as I learn a lot about current issues and problems from VCS colleagues, many of which I can pass on formally or informally at a later date.
Also, I keep a watch out for consultations and flag them up to our members, and in the spirit of the Compact, encourage them to take a few minutes to respond to these (I am not sure always how successfully).
Some of my time is spent simply building relationships, so I know who can offer what to whom when it is needed later on. First, of course, I have to find out who is who, and that is not always easy.
At the moment much of my time and thinking is dedicated to supporting the voluntary sector to get integrated into the new health systems. The health reforms are of course ongoing and some districts here are ahead of others so this is likely to be an extended task.
Raising awareness across the public sector of the breadth and range of the voluntary sector is another important task which I do at every opportunity. I try to influence officers at county and district level to understand the importance of the voluntary and community sector to their own work. This includes members of the Police, the Fire Service and the health services as well as local authorities, all of which have different structures and ways of working.
This may sound very challenging, and it is. People who are averse to multi-tasking should not apply! But if you like variety, communicating with people and creative problem solving, then being a Compact Officer is a great job.

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