Our Annual General Meeting, Wednesday 16th November 2016 at Gateshead Advice Centre
The Consortium achieved much last year: creating one consortium from two; building our infrastructure; continuing to deliver the Fulfilling Lives initiative; and winning funding from the Baring Foundation for a project involving our members. We also brought members together to help them bid, successfully, for a major project to help families in Newcastle in crisis.
Currently we are working with health, arts and culture organisations to develop Well Newcastle Gateshead, a pathfinder to improve the health of the poorest people fastest, in Gateshead and Newcastle.
The University of Northumbria’s survey of our members showed that our Consortium is diverse in the size of our membership and that members provide vital health, social, educational, economic and environmental services, which are increasingly in demand. They continue to face reductions in funding, find it challenging to secure grant income and some struggle to go for and win contracts to deliver the services they provided under a grant. They are uncertain as to the impact of Brexit and the halting of the North East devolution process. However, they have practical support and skills to offer each other.
Blue Stone Consortium’s first Annual General Meeting went off to a cracking start with a warm welcome from Alison Dunn, Chief Executive of Gateshead Advice Centre and a trustee of the Consortium, to the gathering of 30 members and supporters. Martin Gollan of Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service very ably took photos and tweeted for us throughout the meeting so we could share the experience with memebrs and supporters who could not make it to the meeting.
Our Chair, Dave Woolley, set out BSC’s achievements last year, confirming that the Consortium now has 41 members, has grown and developed thanks to the support of those members and the financial investment made by Fulfilling Lives Newcastle Gateshead. He thanked Fulfilling Lives for awarding us the contract to deliver the client facing operation side of this innovative programme, which helps people with multiple and complex needs. Without this investment the Consortium would not have developed.
We said goodbye to two Board members; Mike Halsey of Key Enterprises, standing down from the Board after putting in a lot of work to help establish the Consortium, and to Nancy Doyle who has moved on to be Chief Executive of Virgin Money Foundation. Dave thanked them both and we will stay in touch with them.
The meeting appointed Steve Nash (VOLSAG), Neil Board (Changing Lives) and David Smith (Oasis Aquila Housing) to the Board.
Finally, Dave presented the Consortium’s future plans, including
- Continuing to support the delivery of the Fulfilling Lives programme
- Delivering our Blue Stone Rights Project
- Pursuing the opportunities around Well Newcastle Gateshead
- Continuing to seek business opportunities that ensure the Consortium is sustainable in 2017/18 and beyond.
- Continuing work to develop a common vision for the Consortium’s work across Newcastle and Gateshead.
- Developing the Consortium’s offer so that it is as clear and focused as possible.
Neil Shashoua, our Business Development Manager informed the meeting that the Consortium’s income in 2015/16 was £431,173 and our expenditure was £422,043; leaving a healthy balance of £9,131.
Almost all of our income was from the Fulfilling Lives contract and 92% of spend was to the six member organisations that we contract with to deliver the programme, using only 8% of our income to run and develop the Consortium and manage the Fulfilling Lives contract. In 2016/17 we have other income streams and are less dependent on last year’s sole source of funding.
The Consortium’s new focus on health, care and wellbeing
Brendan Hill, Chief Executive of the Concern Group and one of our trustees, presented the Board’s thinking on the future focus of the Consortium. The population needs are rapidly evolving; the social determinants of health, how society provides support and care for the vulnerable and the urgent need to prioritise prevention, are all challenges that government and public services are facing.
He noted that the voluntary and community sector and our members specifically already do, and increasingly will play an integral role in supporting individuals, communities and vulnerable groups to lead valued lives. As a result of this, the Consortium’s Board wishes to promote our potential as a key partner in developing solution-focused approaches from member organisations already involved across a broad spectrum of projects, initiatives and services supporting health, care and wellbeing
He proposed that this needs to be the primary focus of the Consortium going forward and he asked for the meeting’s views on this focus on two initial priorities based on soundings taken from the membership
- young people and families
- those with complex needs
both of these priorities include using intergenerational approaches for delivery.
The discussion that followed covered the important role Consortium members have in diverting people away from care and preventing them becoming ill or their condition deteriorating such that more intensive healthcare is needed.
Listening to our members
Dr Jan Myers from Northumbria University’s Business School then presented the findings of her survey of our members.
She noted that 55% of the membership responded and most of those responding were medium sized organisations. Overall, members provided a wide range of services to a wide range of people in Newcastle and Gateshead, with people with mental health problems, learning difficulties and carers being the top three categories.
Members face a number of challenges; all but one experienced an increase in demands for its services over the last 12 months and most are dealing with reduced income whilst aiming to sustain their much needed services.
The level of income from grants has continued to reduce with more organisations reliant on contract income. Given that larger organisations have been in a better position to attract contracts than smaller ones, Dr Myers underlined the usefulness of having a consortium of small, medium and large organisations working together to secure resources to benefit people in the area.
Over half the respondents had no or less than 3 months reserves. Those with reserves anticipate using them to cover core costs and meet budget deficits.
Our members are uncertain as to the impact of Brexit and the halting of the North East devolution process. However, they have practical support and skills to offer each other.
Dr Myers will continue to work with the Consortium to better understand the needs of members and how members can support each other by exchanging skills and practical support.
The next three speakers illustrated ways in which they are working with the Consortium to improve the quality of life and wellbeing of disadvantaged people in Gateshead and Newcastle.
A single point of commissioning – Blue Stone Rights Project
Michael Fawole of the North East Law Centre talked about how his organisation is working with the Consortium to enhance the work of members by helping them introduce legal and human rights work.
The project is a good example of how a funder can use the Consortium as a single point with which to work with a range of diverse providers.
With £28,600 of funding over two years from the Baring Foundation, the Consortium and Law Centre have set up a project to bring together nine of the Consortium’s members with the Law Centre to raise their awareness of legal and human rights approaches and help them to introduce and monitor the use of those approaches to improve the help they can give to their beneficiaries.
To date, the Law Centre has held workshops with Newcastle YMCA and Skills for People and has dates in the diary for workshops with Newcastle Carers, and Streetwise. Workshops with Children North East, the Angelou Centre, Involve North East, and Riverside Community Health Project are being arranged.
Brokering relationships and opportunities
Newcastle’s Help Through Crisis bid – how the Consortium helped bring together partners to win a bid.
In late 2015 the Consortium brought together a number of its members to develop a bid for the Big Lottery’s Help Through Crisis Fund, in Newcastle. Neil Baird of Changing Lives presented the useful role the Consortium played as an ‘honest broker’ to gather members to explore developing a bid to this fund, which is aimed at people facing hardship. In the end, three of the organisations went on to bid successfully for £500,000 over 5 years to deliver a project to provide tailored support, advice and advocacy to enable families to address difficulties and be in a better position to improve circumstances and plan for their future.
The partnership, led by Newcastle Law Centre, has contracted with the Consortium to be the independent chair of the project steering group, to give all partners an equal voice in the governance of the project.
Can the Consortium help communities create, connect, and aspire to improve the health of the poorest, fastest?
Professor Chris Drinkwater, Chair of Ways to Wellness and long term champion for reducing health inequalities, presented the meeting with an exciting initiative with the Consortium to improve the health of people in some of our most deprived areas in Newcastle and Gateshead.
He is working with Well North, an initiative to develop pathfinders in some of the poorest parts of the North of England, to develop the next pathfinder in Newcastle Gateshead. The Consortium’s Board has set up a committee to lead the development of Well Newcastle Gateshead, focussing on improving the health of people in four parts of the area, majoring on work with
- children 2 to 7, their parents and grandparents
- adults, to improve their mental health and be more socially connected
by using arts, heritage and culture to help people have fun by using their creativity, connecting them together, and helping them aspire to be more active and healthy.
If the Well North Board accepts the proposal, they will release £1m over four years, matched by £200,000 from each of Gateshead and Newcastle local authorities. Arts and place-based voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations would deliver much of this work.
After questions to the speakers, it was over to the participants to discuss
- how could they make use of the Consortium in the next 12 months
- their thoughts on the Consortium’s new area of focus and where they see themselves contributing and benefitting from it.
It was clear from the discussions that members and supporters want
- Help to identify business opportunities
- Linking in with existing Consortium initiatives, such as Well Newcastle Gateshead
- More communications with funders to help providers reduce/avoid duplication and to bring members and funders together
- Connections with national and strategic bodies
- Greater focus on asset based approaches that are genuinely people led
There was also support for the Consortium’s new focus on health, care and wellbeing.
The meeting ended with tea and cake provided by the lovely people at Gateshead Advice Centre.