Dorset wide Voluntary and Community Sector Assembly – Dorset VCSA

This new model of working, through an integrated care system, is intended to balance central services with more community-connected services; linking better with Social Care in the Local Authorities, and building strong links and partnerships with the VCS in all its shapes and sizes.

To make this work, the VCS needs to find ways to connect with this new Partnership framework. So, this is why the discussions began about an Alliance for the VCS in Dorset creating a mechanism to link the wild, wonderful and varied VCS with the formal and structured needs of the ICS. 

Patently not everyone in the VCS will feel connected to the ICS or interested in it at all. Equally, it won’t be possible to get the thousands of local groups into a room to meet with other ICS partners.

But to make the ICS work, there needs to be a means to engage and connect, represent and champion the VCS at all levels; this includes strategic/system levels and at the community grass roots. It means being able to find people to sit in board meetings, contribute to service and programme design, influence and inspire service delivery, and engage with issues of resourcing and commissioning.

To quote from the NHS’ Integrated Care Systems: design framework document:

“We expect that by April 2022 Integrated Care Partnerships and the ICS NHS body will develop a formal agreement for engaging and embedding the VCSE sector in system level governance and decision-making arrangements, ideally by working through a VCSE alliance to reflect the diversity of the sector. These arrangements should build on the involvement of VCSE partners in relevant forums at place and neighbourhood level.”

Achieving this mechanism for connecting into the VCS has been the focus of a huge amount of work since mid-2021.

With partners we have facilitated and supported a series of meetings and lengthy process of discussion and collaboration between dozens of VCS representatives from across Dorset. This culminated in the creation of two documents in July 2022: 

  • Terms of Reference for the Dorset VCSA which details the mechanism it will us to ensure the VCS are an equal partner within the ICS 
  • Memorandum of Understanding between the integrated Care System (ICS) and the Dorset VCSA. 

Within the Terms of Reference it details a requirement for a Governance Board which was established in March 2023. They are responsible for: 

  • ensuring the VCS has a seat at the table to work directly with public sector partners to jointly meet the needs of the residents of Dorset. 
  • enabling discussion and agreement on a better, fairer commissioning model for the ICS. 
  • making sure the VCS has a direct and equal voice and contribution to the design and delivery of services alongside the NHS and Local Authorities. 
  • enabling the VCS to support, challenge, inspire and develop integrated services at all levels; from grass roots, street-by-street levels to county-wide approaches. 

The Governance Board are still in the early stages of development and we will be providing regular updates as things develop.