How we got where we are: guest blog from Redbridge local Compact

Compact Voice has recently been supporting One East MidlandsWellbeing East and the Involvement Network with some workshops they were running in Bedford and Nottingham.
These events focused on helping encourage good partnership working between health bodies and the voluntary sector, and illustrating how local Compacts can be used as a tool for supporting these partnerships.
Ross Diamond, Chief Officer of RedbridgeCVS, came along to the Bedford event with us on 21 January. Ross shared his experiences of how the Compact had helped to form a foundation for strong partnerships with health bodies locally, and this guest blog provides a short overview of what he covered.

Pictured: partners from Redbridge accepting the 
2014 Compact innovation Award: with Rob Wilson MP,
Minister for Civil Society [fourth from left]
and Ross Diamond [second from right].

When I first heard of local Compacts well over ten years ago, I could immediately see the possibilities these might hold as a way of improving the poor relationship between the public and voluntary sectors that existed locally. 

On approaching Council officers in the South London borough where I was then based to suggest that we might discuss developing a local Compact, I was met with the astonishing response that this wasn't necessary: the Council already had a Compact, and, no, we in the voluntary sector couldn't see a copy.
Within weeks of that dispiriting conversation, I started a new role as Chief Officer of a CVS in a different London Borough. On only my second day I found myself attending an event focussing on developing a Compact for Redbridge that was attended by over 200 delegates from the voluntary and public sectors. The discussions were ‘frank and robust’ but taken in good spirit by all parties – who were clearly relishing airing some long held concerns as well as putting down plans for improved relationships and partnership working.
When I then spoke at the Redbridge Primary Care Trust (PCT) Board to invite them to join the Compact drafting process they sounded keen – and I was feeling positive until a Board member said “yes, we know the voluntary sector in Redbridge. There are 12 groups aren't there?" At the time our database was around 800.

In the end the PCT decided not to formally sign Redbridge’s first Compact and not long after that, the PCT cut its large voluntary sector grants programme overnight without consultation or engagement of any kind.
After much soul-searching we decided not to use Public Law to force them to review this – but instead began a process of trying to demonstrate our sector’s value to the NHS.
We focussed by trying – successfully on this occasion – to persuade them to take part in the second Compact drafting process. From then on we had many chances to explain the range and scope of voluntary sector activity in Redbridge to our NHS colleagues - and this eventually paid off.
The PCT – and now its successor, the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) – funded us to employ a Health Partnerships Officer to help the NHS and voluntary sector to work together and understand each other better.
Public Health in Redbridge now also funds and supports a range of voluntary sector activity, including RedbridgeCVS’ own ‘Health Buddies’ and ‘Fit For Fun’ schemes.
This year the Council-led Redbridge First Response Service (ReFRS) won a Compact Voice Innovation Award – building on several health-related Compact Awards which Redbridge projects have won and been shortlisted for in recent years.

Details of this work, and several other examples of health-focused partnership work undertaken in Redbridge, can be found on the Compact Voice website.

I hope that they can inspire people to focus on demonstrating the value of the voluntary sector’s many contributions to health and wellbeing, and to using the Compact as a way of enhancing the vital relationships between our sectors.

If you’re interested in reviewing any of the other materials or presentations from the event Ross spoke at, One East Midlands have set up a post-event page from the Bedford workshop.


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