The crucial role played by Tower Hamlets’ voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations received a welcome boost as the council agreed a range of measures to further develop and support their work across the borough.
Tower Hamlets has around 2,000 VCS organisations that work with thousands of residents providing a wide range of services including those relating to health and wellbeing, advice, leisure, employment and housing.
The council’s Cabinet meeting on March 20 gave the green light to strengthen further the existing partnership with the council, and to take forward new funding agreements that give greater impact and outcomes, and maximise the benefit to local people.
Further work will be carried out with the VCS to establish a new Community Commissioning programme to start in April 2019. This will continue the council’s commitment to providing a more secure funding base for the local VCS through commissioned services.
The final programme will set out in detail the way the VCS will deliver high quality services in partnership with the council. Importantly, they will be ‘co-produced’ by the VCS and the council and will also have the active involvement and participation of residents and service users.
Alongside the Community Commissioning programme a new VCS grants policy is also being developed which recognises that it may be better to fund some VCS activities through grants rather than commissioning. This new programme is due to launch this summer, with the first grants to groups providing local services to start in April 2019.
Cabinet also agreed that the council’s community buildings policy, designed to offer fair and open access for VCS organisations to council buildings, should be extended to include all VCS organisations leasing council premises. Revisions were also agreed to extend the scope of the rent reduction scheme which recognises the benefit of VCS services to the community.
The council has already opened the Christian Street Community Hub in Whitechapel which gives access to affordable high quality working, meeting and event space, equipped with new kitchens, high-spec ICT and Wifi. Christian Street is the first of four planned centres to be opened across the borough, with more centres due to open later this year and into 2019.
Will Tuckley, Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets said: “I’m impressed by the huge commitment and dedication given by community and voluntary groups of all sizes across the borough. Recognising the crucial role many of our groups play in supporting residents to live better lives, we’ve been able to respond by introducing additional support, greater certainty, and in some cases extra rent reduction to more local organisations.
“Through the creation of the new Commissioning Programme, Community Hubs, and the co-produced approach to grants, we are determined to work alongside the local voluntary and community sector to ensure they can continue to provide great services for local people.”
Preeti Udas, Tower Hamlets Community Voluntary Sector (THCVS) Chair said:
“THCVS welcomes the opportunity to play a key role supporting and enabling the community and voluntary sector organisations to participate and co-produce in the development of the Commissioning Programme”