Demands on VCS services continues to rise across West Essex but this is not reflected in grant availability or contract value. Access to smaller or start up grants is generally still available but continuation funds and contributions to core costs are being squeezed within each successive funding round, focusing instead on the push for self-generated income, and value for money indicators.
Smaller groups continue to need support to find and apply for these, but there is an opportunity to build resilience and sustainability through collaboration. Alongside this, the external market, in which voluntary and community based organisations have traditionally thrived, is changing rapidly from a grant based economy to a contractual environment which favours larger national organisations with high financial turnovers, ability to reduce costs, and capacity to build impressive applications.
However, collaboration and a shared approach across West Essex could be seen as an opportunity for the sector to work together through Special Purpose Vehicles or consortia.
Through the three partners organisations, WECAN has a well-established relationship with our local communities as well as with local public sector and statutory organisations. This will provide us with a sound platform upon which to build and strengthen the delivery capability, capacity and reputation of the whole of the voluntary and community sector across West Essex, putting VCSEs across the locality in a better position to compete for larger pieces of work against national organisations (thus keeping the work within the locality which provides better outcomes for service users, adding to the capacity and resilience of the sector locally, and maintaining a diverse and thriving sector).
We intend that this approach will also make it more attractive and easier for commissioners to connect with the sector and work with them to support major strategies. For some contract opportunities it will simply act as a way for the three partner organisations to contract as one to deliver a project or service. However, we will be looking for opportunities for other organisations to become delivery partners, subcontracting to WECAN. Potentially, it could also act as a vehicle to connect the sector to social investment opportunities and other funding streams requiring greater pooling of resources to minimise risk.
WECAN is a not-for-profit entity wholly owned by CVS Uttlesford, Rainbow Services and Voluntary Action Epping Forest. For some contract opportunities it will simply act as a way for the three organisations to contract as one to deliver a project or service. However, we will be looking for opportunities for other organisations to become delivery partners, subcontracting to WECAN.