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Devon, Plymouth, Torbay: VCSE Assembly

Devon, Plymouth and Torbay is developing a Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Assembly to support the sector and the wider strategic system.

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The VCSE Assembly – what is the thinking?

VCSE organisations across Devon, Plymouth and Torbay have been for some time now developing the concept of a new more inclusive, collaborative, transparent and joined up way of working across a large and diverse sector. The Assembly model supports joint leadership and cross sector partnership working with public sector providers on an equal footing. The concept is one of a broad based inclusive and shared collaborative model, where people, communities and organisations can contribute and engage in the way they want to. It will be a key touch point for the public sector (both Devon’s Integrated Care Partnership and local governments) to access and communicate with the VCSE and vice versa as well as a peer network for VCSE organisations to come together when needed.

What is it going to do?

The Assembly will provide the infrastructure support necessary to create a fluid pool of people and organisations, with a broad range of skills, expertise, innovative solutions and lived experience that can fully engage in, inform and influence strategic partnership discussions, co-design of services, policy development, co-commissioning and joint leadership and decision making. The Assembly will connect geographic groups and structures to share, draw in and join up intelligence and insight, through an inclusive Assembly approach and grow VCSE/ public sector collaboration to improve local community outcomes.

Is there wider system support?

Funding has been agreed by One Devon (Devon’s Integrated Care Partnership) and the Devon Recovery Coordination Group (DRCG) to support and contribute to the further development and sustainability of the Assembly. Specifically, this will pay for development, piloting, co-ordination and the day to day running of the Assembly, an Intelligence and Communications Resource and an annual fund to backfill 300 hours of VCSE leadership resource to input into Integrated Care System related strategic activity at Partnership Board and Task and Finish Group level.

What is it hoping to achieve?

The ultimate aim is to share power and influence. Devon is resolute in its ambition for the VCSE to be seen as strategic partners and joint decision makers and not just as paid providers.   

Graph to illustrate the case study


Background Context

NHSE(I) produced guidance in September 2021 titled “ICS implementation guidance on partnerships with the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector”. Its key recommendations were that:

  • The VCSE sector is a key strategic partner with an important contribution to make in shaping, improving and delivering services, and developing and implementing plans to tackle the wider determinants of health
  • VCSE partnership should be embedded in how the ICS operates, including through involvement in governance structures in population health management and service redesign work, and in system workforce, leadership and organisational development plans.

Whilst the VCSE Assembly was formed with engaging with Devon ICS in mind, it has a much wider ambition, acknowledging that health and well-being is relevant to most statutory partner.