What things really matter to us in our every day lives

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This is my tenth monthly Helping Others article and each month I shine a light on some aspect of the huge amount of voluntary and community action that makes our area a great place to live and work.

I also aim to raise awareness of the role of Harrogate and Ripon CVS in supporting charities and volunteers and helping them do what they do best. Our ambition is to ensure that people are not too overwhelmed by the inevitable planning and paperwork that is required to ensure that everyone is safe and clear about their roles.

This month I’m going to focus on another part of our role which is enabling collaboration with other sectors and ensuring that the role of the local voluntary and community sector is recognised and valued. Navigating through and around the local web of people and organisations can be tricky but we work hard to understand what makes our communities tick and to connect like-minded people and organisations up so they can make a difference.

Sometimes this is a simple matter of sharing information. We use our long established “Where to Turn” community information directory as a tool to do this, available via www.harcvs.org.uk. This is supplemented by regular newsletters and bulletins, circulated to our comprehensive mailing list of people interested in knowing more about the local voluntary sector. If you’re not on this list but would like to be please e-mail your details to cvs@harcvs.org.uk. We also bring people together to discuss issues of concern, to solve problems and to try and influence the decision makers in other sectors to make the best use of our community assets and resources. Finally we offer a training programme on a variety of topics to help people be as effective as possible in their roles in the voluntary sector.

One current example of this aspect of our work is our involvement on behalf of the voluntary sector in an exciting and ambitious local health project. The “What matters to us” partnership brings together all the key organisations involved in ensuring people enjoy good health and have access to appropriate services if and when they need them. The Harrogate District has been fortunate to secure additional funding from NHS England to transform the way care and support is provided in our area and in each part of the system.

“What matters to us” will focus on providing access to 24/7 advice, information and preventative services for people who find themselves needing health or social care support. This will involve new ways of working in GP practices, community and hospital based services. It will also require the development of even closer links with voluntary organisations that provide a whole range of services and activities to support improved physical and mental health. The project will also have an emphasis on enabling people to maintain their own health and wellbeing by involving them more fully in taking the necessary steps to do so. After a great deal of planning and consultation with local people the plans have been signed off and the project is now being rolled out in stages across the District over the next few months..

At HARCVS we are currently being supported by the partnership to further develop our community information directory to provide comprehensive, up to date and easily searchable information on the wide range of activities offered by voluntary organisations. Information will be fully accessible online but we know that not everyone uses the internet, so making sure that details can be easily printed off by carers, clinicians and supporters still remains very important. We are also eager to develop this more pro-active collaboration and move well beyond just providing information. We want to work with GP’s and other health professionals to help them confidently and easily refer appropriate patients to activities, services and support offered by the voluntary and community sector. This is underway on a small scale in some local practices and for some specific activities. Here “social prescribing” is having a measurable impact on tackling the underlying causes of mental ill-health, reducing the effects of loneliness by connecting people with their communities, and supporting people to stay well at home. There is also evidence that appointments with GP’s which don’t require a medical response are reducing and that unnecessary hospital admissions are being avoided. At HARCVS we’ll continue to ensure that that our vibrant local voluntary sector is part of this important development.

For more info visit www.harcvs.org.uk, and we’re on Facebook and Twitter @HARCVS