Our background

In 2013, an independently funded feasibility study looked at the potential for a better and more coordinated collaboration between the three West Essex infrastructure agencies. The final report came up with a number of scenarios and recommendations to facilitate their inter-operability . Whilst it was never considered by the three organisations collectively (only by the individual Boards), it offers some useful operational suggestions and recommends one model for collaborative working above the rest. Whilst times and organisational circumstances have moved on, the report is still considered to be a useful starting point for further shared development.

In June 2016, the chief officers and chairs of West Essex’s three infrastructure organisations (the WECAN organisations) met to initially discuss the current situation with regard to Essex County Council’s likely restructuring to their financial support for infrastructure and development work. These discussions resulted in a commitment to move forward and create a formal West Essex company which will provide bigger and better opportunities for shared delivery across the three districts.

Uttlesford Community Action Network (UCAN)

Formed in 1987 as CVS Uttlesford, and now working as UCAN, we serve the district of Uttlesford, which comprises of the towns of Saffron Walden, Thaxted, Stansted Mountfitchit and Great Dunmow and the surrounding villages within 56 parishes.

Uttlesford is largely rural and is recognized as an affluent area, but has pockets of deprivation and the usual challenges associated with rural areas, eg. rural and social isolation, transport links and accessibility of services as well as fuel poverty.

Saffron Walden town is next to, and has much in common with, East Hertfordshire and, South Cambridgeshire, whereas Dunmow looks more towards mid Essex and Braintree/Chelmsford as its natural “go to” place for service delivery.

Rainbow Services (Harlow)

Formed in 1999, originally as a service delivery organisation but acquired the support and development (infrastructure) function as part of its core business in 2006.

Unlike other CVSs, Rainbow Services (Harlow) is not a membership organisation but has initiated the local Voluntary Sector Forum to fulfil this aspect of the role.

Rainbow serves the population of Harlow which has large areas of deprivation, low levels of educational attainment and many health and mortality challenges which are similar to those experienced by some inner-city areas. Harlow is on the East Herts district border and, consequently, has many links into Hertfordshire, not least via patient flow into the local district general hospital.

Voluntary Action Epping Forest

The Epping Forest CVS was formed in 1993 and became VAEF in 2004. The organisation serves the Epping Forest district which is largely rural with 5 urban areas; Waltham Abbey, Epping, Chipping Ongar, Loughton and Buckhurst Hill. While relatively affluent, the district does have pockets of high deprivation. On the western edge of Essex, the district adjoins Harlow and Uttlesford to the north, Chelmsford and Brentwood boroughs to the east and the London boroughs of Redbridge and Havering to the south.