We’re looking for a bid writer – DEADLINE 26 October, 5pm

We are tendering to contract with a bid writer for up to £10,000 to develop, design and write our stage 2 bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund/Arts Council England for their Great Place Scheme, if we get through stage 1. We’ll know the latter w/c 31 October and, due to the short timescale between then and the deadline to submit the stage 2 bid (12 January), we want to contract with an experienced and skilful bid writer to lead on developing, designing and providing content for a winning bid.

Our bid seeks to bring together cultural organisations (heritage, historic and the arts) with those from health, education, and voluntary and community sectors to engage with people from some of the most disadvantaged communities in Newcastle and Gateshead and co-design an inclusive programme that enhances cultural participation, social cohesion and health and well-being. develop a sustainable funding model built around cultural assets as ‘well-being hubs’ – funding providers of services to deliver good mental and physical health, and social connectivity.

You can download a copy of our Invitation to Tender here and a copy of the guidance for the Great Place Scheme from www.greatplacescheme.org.uk

Our new Chair

Recently the Board was pleased to appoint Dave Woolley, Chief Executive of Your Voice Counts, as Chair of the Consortium.   Dave has a lot of experience in designing and delivering projects and in working with people with learning disabilities, becoming Chief Executive of Your Voice Counts, a charity that provides a range of services to support vulnerable people, particularly those with a learning disability, across the North East, in 2012 having worked for the organisation for 10 years, initially as a group worker supporting people with learning disabilities to establish and run their own Self Advocacy groups across Tyneside.

He lives in Gateshead with his partner and two children.

Below, Dave writes about his background and his vision for the Consortium.

DavidWoolley-BSCI studied Community Drama at Northumbria University, graduating in the year 2000 before practising as an arts worker, delivering projects into local communities across Newcastle. It was during this time that I first began to work with the learning disabled community using drama to help people explore and speak up about the issues that affected their lives, and working alongside groups such as The Lawnmowers and Liberdade. I then went on to undertake a Post-graduate Certificate in Education and for the next 5 years worked as a tutor, designing and delivering courses to adults with learning disabilities.

Keen to take on a more direct role in helping people with learning disabilities to speak up for their rights, I then moved to Your Voice Counts in 2006. During this time I worked with Gateshead People, a self-advocacy group set up and run by people with learning disabilities, supporting them to campaign around the issues that affected their lives and to work directly with the council and health services to ensure local policy reflected the needs of people with learning disabilities. I also helped to established Talk 2 Us, a self-advocacy group for people with learning disabilities in South Tyneside.

I continue to be passionate about ensuring that the most disadvantaged people in our society are afforded the same rights and opportunities as the rest of us and joined the Board of the Blue Stone Consortium in October 2015 because I believe that we are stronger together. Only by collaborating with each other can we protect and those rights and give our most disadvantaged communities of place, interest and identity good opportunities that will bring them benefits economically, socially, culturally and in the environment.

I am delighted to be chairing the Consortium’s Board, which, at its last meeting, decided that health, care and wellbeing is the new focus of the organisation. In everything we do we want to support our members to do what they do best; promoting, protecting and providing services and engaging with people to take control of their own lives to improve their health, care for themselves and each other and engender wellbeing in their neighbourhoods and communities.



Silverline Memories – Growing to support people living with Dementia

One of the great aspects of the Consortium is our diversity; our members range in size, geographical coverage, what we do and who we do it with. That’s why I was delighted to catch up with Sandra Hastings the dynamic Chief Operating Officer of our smallest member organisation, Silverline Memories. They’re looking for partners to get involved in their latest initiative, the Cecily Douglas Memory Garden in Springwell Village, Gateshead.

Tell us about your organisation?

Silverline Memories was founded in 2013, originally as a Community Interest Company, to offer activities for people with dementia living in care homes. A grant from the Comic Relief/Ballinger Trust/Northern Rock Foundation North East & Cumbria Dementia Fund proved to be a springboard for the organisation and we introduced several new services and activities.  We reconstituted in September 2015 as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation to enable the organisation to grow via funding from more charitable trusts & foundations.

What does Silverline Memories do?

In a nutshell we provide “places to go and things to do” for people living with12779115_902014963251555_1730128149721966993_o Dementia.  We recognise it is not just the person with the diagnosis who is ‘living with Dementia’ and so we include family and friends in our activities. We currently provide around twenty social opportunities per calendar month and these include Dementia Cafes, Lunch Clubs, Tea Dances, Carer Support Groups, Pub Lunches, and Cinema and Theatre visits.  We also manage a Community Garden in Gateshead at which we offer volunteering opportunities and Gardening Days for our own and
other service user groups.


What are your organisation’s values?

To make life nicer for people with Dementia. We believe in being present in the moment with a person, never correcting their understanding of time or circumstance. These values lie in the passion of the trustees and volunteers; we all have personal and/or professional experience of caring for someone with this condition so we have the insight into the challenges face by everyone affected by Dementia.

Give us some statistics about your organisation

We are still 100% volunteer led, with seven trustees and an additional eight volunteers who manage, plan and deliver all our services and activities.  We have recently moved into our base at Great Park Community Centre but until then we have all worked from our own homes.  In our first year our income was £8306 and this increased to £17,227 over 2015.


Those we support tell us that Silverline Memories has changed their lives, being a revelation, and providing a life for people who would otherwise have little by way of meaningful engagement. We are told we are the ray of sunshine in otherwise dark times.  This is why we do what we do.

What successes have you had by collaborating with other organisations?

We have worked closely with Gateshead Council in developing our project at the Cecily Douglas Memory Garden in Silverline photo 2sml.  We acquired the licence via the asset transfer process. This is by far our most challenging project to date and we are looking forward to working with other community groups across the North East in further developing the opportunities available from this wonderful asset.


Do you want other Consortium members to be involved?

Yes please! We are keen to engage with other organisations both for partnership opportunities but also to make available the Garden for groups wishing to run their own projects from the site.  Currently the scale of the Garden exceeds our own capacity and we are keen to involve other organisations that can support the ongoing maintenance of the site while also benefiting their own user group at the same time.

What makes you a good partner to work with?

We are open to suggestions and welcome all feedback.  As a very young organisation we are aware of our weaknesses as well as our strengths and welcome all opportunities to develop our understanding of the voluntary sector and organisational development.


To get in touch with Sandra e-mail her at sandra@silverlinememories.com and to find out more about Silverline Memories visit their website at www.silverlinememories.com


Introducing our members: Sight Service Gateshead and South Tyneside

Sight Service Gateshead and South Tyneside is one of our newest members and I was keen to find out more about them and particularly pleased that Sue Taylor, their Chief Executive, was able to talk to me between meetings.

Tell us about the history of Sight Service

“Sight Service is the leading voluntary sector organisation in the north east providing services and support to people with sight loss. It was founded in 1996 following intensive research, led by the local authorities, health and national and local voluntary sector organisations, which identified huge gaps in services for visually impaired people in Tyne and Wear.

With a small grant in 1998, we employed a part time development worker and involved sighted and visually impaired volunteers to start to address the issues. We now employ 24 paid staff and have over 150 volunteers, working out of two Centres (in Gateshead and in South Tyneside) from where we offer advice, information, training and support to people with sight loss from all over Tyne and Wear.”

What is your mission?

“To enable people with sight loss to enjoy the quality of life other people take for granted.”

How are you funded?

“By both Gateshead and South Tyneside Councils to provide assessment, and rehabilitation and mobility training to visually impaired people. We also have a contract with Newcastle/Gateshead CCG to provide an integrated low vision service. These services are supplemented by a welfare rights and advocacy service, professional counselling, emotional support, and peer support, together with a wide range of social, leisure and learning activities. We have three highly trained rehabilitation officers for the blind, four ophthalmologists; our welfare rights officers and advocates; our assessors and our team of support workers.”

What work are you delivering in partnership?

“Together with Age UK Gateshead and Your Voice Counts we are delivering on two local partnership projects – a handyman service and, along with seven other voluntary sector organisations, a social prescribing project. Covering a larger area we lead on ‘Community Empowerment Project – Newcastle/Gateshead/South Tyneside’, a Big Lottery funded partnership project with the Newcastle Society for Blind People. At a national level we are working closely with RNIB/Action for Blind People to link the ten leading service providers of local services for people with sight loss with the national organisation to develop the capacity and reduce the postcode lottery across the region.”


Why did you join the Consortium and what do you hope to get out of collaborating with other Consortium members?

“We wanted more opportunities to work with others to develop more innovative ways in which we can support people, more opportunities to respond to larger tenders, to reach a wider geographical area, gain and give mutual support. To us, it’s obvious; people with visual impairments have all sorts of needs which we can’t meet, but other organisations can and do; so it makes sense that we join up what we are all doing together to benefit those individuals.”


Sue would be delighted to hear from other Consortium members interested in collaborating; you can reach her on sue.taylor@sightservice.co.uk and you can find out more about the Sight Service by clicking on http://sightservice.my-free.website/


Neil Shashoua, Business Development Manager, Blue Stone Consortium

Introducing our members – Children North East: making lives better for children since 1891

Children North East celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2016. The charity was founded in Newcastle to give children living in the town’s slums a day trip to the seaside as a treat but principally for the fresh air and their health. It quickly expanded to providing longer holidays, enrichment activities and Night Shelters for street children, routes out of poverty through employment in a Messenger Boy service and agricultural work, and for girls, training in domestic service. In 1906 they set up the first TB Sanatorium for children in the country at Stannington.

For most of the last century the charity managed its own children’s homes the last of which closed in 1991. Since then they have provided services to support children and young people in their families, schools and communities in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and County Durham; and also influencing policy and practice for families in rural areas, fathers and more recently child poverty.

Children NE
Hazel Jones-Lee, Elizabeth Steele, Jeremy Cripps and Sarah Wood at their 125th year supporter event, January 2016

Children’s rights are at the heart of Children North East as expressed in their values of respect, empowerment, equality, openness, acceptance and partnership. They plan to measure the organisation’s impact in terms of the difference made to children’s rights as perceived by children and young people. Children North East is eager to work with any partner, statutory, commercial or third sector to ensure all north east children and young people grow up happy and healthy.

During this 125th year the organisation has joined with the Children’s Foundation, British Medical Association and the region’s universities to host a regional conference about the mental health and emotional wellbeing of children and young people. Towards the end of the year Children North East will publish a report on state of childhood in the north east and host a call to action.

And our partners for the Blue Stone Rights Project are…

Last month we announced our success in bidding to the Baring Foundation for a training, education and capacity building grant for a two year project for us to work in collaboration with the North East Law Centre and some of our other members to support them to develop and use legal and human rights approaches to make a difference to the lives of their beneficiaries.

We were very pleased that we had 15 applications to be our partners in this project, as well as a number of suggestions as to what the project could be called. We have decided to name it the Blue Stone Rights Project, as suggested by Jeremy Cripps of Children North East. Thank you Jeremy.

Today we are very excited to announce that we have chosen the following organisations to be partners with us in the project. We’re really looking forward to working with them and chuffed to bits that they are keen to be involved.

The Angelou Centre

Children North East

Involve North East

Newcastle Carers

Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service

Riverside Community Health Project

Skills for People


YMCA Newcastle


Big Lottery Fund Help Through Crisis – congratulations to our members

Congratulations to the Blue Stone Consortium members who were successful in winning Big Lottery funding to deliver vital services to people facing hardship in Gateshead and in Newcastle.

In Gateshead, Oasis Aquila Housing in collaboration with other Consortium members Gateshead Advice Centre, Your Voice Counts, as well as a foodbank and a credit union will receive £499,261. Gateshead covers significant rural areas and case workers will arrange home visits for those who find transport costs prohibitive and deliver food by van to rurally isolated or housebound people.

Read the story of how Basis, run by Oasis Aquila Housing, helped Paul Fairbairn to pick his life up after a relationship breakdown.

In Newcastle one of our two predecessor consortia helped Newcastle Law Centre (North East Law Centre) to form a partnership with two other Consortium members; Changing Lives and Advocacy Centre North. We are very pleased that they were successful in their bid for £498,878 to deliver a project to provide an Accompany, Advocate and Advise service to families in the most deprived areas of Newcastle who are in positions of extreme hardship and crisis.

The Law Centre will lead, providing specialist welfare benefits and debt legal advice with two main partners: Changing Lives; providing holistic support services and Advocacy Centre North; providing advocacy services.

Services will be provided in partnership with three key organisations that will help the Law Centre to provide a drop in service in their premises.

The project will launch in June/ July 2016 and we will be involved in its development.

Introducing our members – Your Back Yard

Formed in January 2013 by Robin Beveridge, Tony Mullin and David Gluck, who all have a background in working in different aspects of community regeneration, this CIC acts as a catalyst to help communities lead their regeneration.

Robin, Tony and David (who has since left) set up Your Back Yard out of a concern that disadvantaged communities were being hit harder and harder by austerity, so the level of need in those communities was increasing.  At the same time, the level of VCSE and local authority support for those communities was reducing.  They felt there would be opportunities on the horizon, such as Community Led Local Development YourBackYardand Big Lottery Fund post the 2012 London Olympics, to fund community led regeneration.  Your Back Yard was set up not as a deliverer of such regeneration, but as a catalyst for it, so they do not (as yet at least) take on the management of large regeneration projects, but help people to come together, undertake research and engagement to help communities identify their needs, priorities and assets, and help with raising funding for those communities to take on such projects.

As they have found over the last three years, one of the hardest challenges is to find the money to pay for this work.

They chose the CIC structure because of its simplicity; it enables them to determine the direction of the organisation, while bringing in others as trustees to provide oversight and support.  This ensures that all of their work focuses on benefiting communities and allows them to access grants from some charitable sources.

They feel they are really good at identifying needs and opportunities in communities and making projects happen. “Traditional community development workers will often say the process is more important than the outcome. We say the outcome is more important than the process. In all our work, we want people to be able to point to the difference that they have made.”

Their local successes include

  • Creating the low Heaton Community Association in Newcastle, which is now a self-sustaining organisation which runs litter picks and community events.
  • Setting up a community café in Shieldfield after the community identified they lacked places to meet.

What’s next for Your Back Yard?

  • Helping communities with spatial planning – they have recently taken on an associate who’s a planner and, as a result, are getting more involved in helping communities at the build environment and neighbourhood planning process.
  • Green back yard – getting more into environmental spaces because it’s an issue that many communities put high in their list of priorities. Currently they have a proposal for a project to help people to make money out of recycling and food preparation, which is going to public vote as part of the Greening Wingrove Innovation Fund.

If you want to be involved in growing Your Back Yard, they are looking for trustees with a legal and HR background – contact robin@yourbackyard.org.uk.

What could you achieve for clients by being more aware of their rights?

We’ve had it confirmed that we were successful in our bid to the Baring Foundation for a training, education and capacity building grant. The Foundation has been kind enough to award us funding over 2 years for us to work in collaboration with the North East Law Centre and ten of our other members to support them to develop and use legal and human rights approaches to make a difference to the lives of their beneficiaries.

This could include supporting our members’ frontline delivery to recognise when a legal approach would benefit the people who use their services, to develop expertise in advising people to challenge decisions made against them, and to find ways to help beneficiaries get legal redress.

We were one of only 18 successful projects to be awarded funding in the Foundation’s Strengthening the Voluntary Sector programme, which, in this round, received 250 bids (ie a 1 in 14 chance of success).

In the next few weeks we’ll be in touch with our members to invite them to benefit from this project.

Our launch – and we’re off!

There was a really good turnout for our launch on 1st February 2016 as 38 people, representing 33 organisations made time to be at the birth of Newcastle and Gateshead’s first ever voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) consortium. Most were existing members but some were new of the Consortium; all wanted to back the organisation to develop ways of working together and win business that benefits individuals and communities in Newcastle and Gateshead.

Full group smlThe event successfully launched

  • The Blue Stone Consortium; a new organisation which brings together Newcastle Voluntary Sector Consortium and Together Gateshead, the two VCSE consortia that covered Newcastle and Gateshead respectively. At the suggestion of one of our members we named the Consortium after the blue marble stone that marked the point on the old Tyne Bridge where Gateshead and Newcastle met; our work being to bring VCSE organisations in those areas together with others to improve the lives of local people and their communities.
  • Our offer to members and supporters; what the Consortium will do to help our members work together with commissioners, funders and social investors to improve the lives of some of the most disadvantaged people in our area. This included setting out the commitment the Board are asking members to make to make that offer a reality.
  • Our website; a place for the Consortium’s members, interested organisations and supporters to find out about our values, our current work and our achievements.


What was clear from the presentations and discussions is that there is a need for the Consortium

  • as an organisation serving its members
  • as an approach to bringing together funders, commissioners and investors with organisations that have a track record and reputation of delivering high quality services to their beneficiaries. This approach needs be both
  • reactive; waiting for tenders to come out and trying to gain intelligence and a line of sight towards contracts being let, and
  • proactive; working with each other to identify the needs of the people and communities we serve, identifying gaps, building business cases to fill those gaps, and engaging with commissioners, funders and investors to finance this.

Sally et al sml

There are still barriers that prevent commissioners, funders and other supporters working with a collaboration of not for profit providers; to improve the health and wellbeing of local people, to regenerate communities, to help people find and maintain jobs with a decent wage, and to support young people to have and meet their aspirations.

The Consortium is one way to overcome some of these barriers.


The drivers which led to the setting up of the Consortium are still present; lack of opportunity for small, medium and large organisations to collaborate to share contract income; contracts being too large for many organisations to bid for and deliver on their own or with their network of usual partners; and competition from providers that have little or no understanding, reach or credibility with local communities.



Dr Guy Pilkington, Chair of the Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group presented the commissioning landscape and opportunities for the Consortium from an NHS commissioning perspective.

Guy 4sml

He set out the three gaps the CCG aimed to close

  1. The Finance Gap – an annual shortfall of £30bn across the country between demand and supply. Preventing people needing acute care by supporting them to improve their health, preventing long term conditions and providing more and better care in primary and community settings will help close this gap.
  2. The Quality Gap – variations between organisations, areas and patient groups means that some people get poorer healthcare and experience worse health than others.
  3. The Health Gap – the difference between the burden of disease and illnesses we could prevent and the inequality in wealth between people in our area being a significant determinant of poor health. Reducing inequality would hep reduce this gap.

Guy P 1 sml

The NHS Five Year Forward Review has set the tone of the approaches to closing these gaps. Locally, initiatives such as Deciding Together (consultation on specialist mental health services) and the Proof of Concept for the integration of health and social care in Newcastle are the mechanisms for changing healthcare and improving health.

He urged us to build alliances with each other and the statutory sector, add value, and take advantage of the personalisation agenda.

“This consortium way of working makes sense to me”



Alice Wiseman, Consultant in Public Health at Gateshead Council, then gave us a very comprehensive presentation on delivering Gateshead Council’s priorities. First she helped us understand the Council’s architecture for strategic planning; the Vision 2030 (One Vision, Six Big Ideas), the Council Plan 2015 to 2020, and the context within which that architecture is being designed and built

Alice 3 sml

  • Gateshead Council needing to save £77.7m by 2021 as a result of reductions in funding from Central Government
  • Changes in the population leading to an increase in the demand for health and social care services
  • High levels of preventable illness and disability
  • Austerity measures including Welfare reform
  • The policy direction for integration (commissioning and service delivery)


“The Gateshead Council Plan is clear that over the next 5 years, if we are to achieve desired outcomes for Gateshead, there needs to be a shift towards shared responsibility with communities and partners.”


With the key messages from Guy and Alice in our minds, we broke up into small groups to explore how participants could work with the Board of the Consortium and each other to make their organisations more sustainable, promote what they offer to individuals and communities in Newcastle and Gateshead, and benefit from the Consortium in 2016.

Group discussion1 sml

In the discussions participants wanted the Consortium

  • to develop an evidence base to show funders/commissioners that VCSE providers make an impact to individuals and communities
  • to show that the VCSE is better placed than other sectors to give those individuals and communities a voice with strategic agencies
  • to ensure that the values of the VCSE are manifest in the Consortium’s work
  • to be ready for when contracts are let and this includes having developed approaches to manage competition between Consortium members


One key issue that Robin and Mick smlemerged from these discussions was that members have developed innovative solutions to health, social care, education, and community led regeneration problems in which commissioners and funders would be interested. Often, Consortium members find it difficult to identify and engage with such potential supporters to have those solutions developed and replicated.

A useful role for the Consortium would be to bring supports and members together.

The Question Time session with Alice Wiseman, Dr Guy Pilkington and Neil Shashoua, the Consortium’s Business Development Manager, responded to participants’ questions including

Question Time 1 sml

  • Business opportunities – where will they come from?
  • What does the Consortium plan to do next?
  • Is EU funding really a possibility for Consortium members?


The launch ended with chats over tea and cake and an appreciation of Muckle LLP in Newcastle who hosted us in their beautiful Board Room in Gallowgate, Newcastle upon Tyne.


Alice 2 sml