Lydia Jackson, Policy and Relationships Adviser and David Whittle, Director of Strategy, Policy, Relationships & Corporate Assurance, were in attendance for this item.
1) The Leader said that there had been a session prior to the pandemic with engagement on the principles of the draft Civil Society Strategy and that it was important the strategy be taken forward, drawing on the lessons from the pandemic.
2) Mr Hill said that a great deal of work had been done in the previous year to support and engage with voluntary sector. KCC had directly supported the sector during the pandemic and progress had been made in engaging with voluntary sector. A long-term plan had been developed to support the sector and this would be embedded in the Civil Society Strategy. The innovative Crowd Funding Initiative had been popular and effective.
3) Mr Whittle said that this work had built on the commitment to strengthen links with the voluntary sector as a whole. The majority of voluntary sector services do not provide services for KCC. The Covid-19 pandemic allowed KCC to accelerate relationships in a way that had not been anticipated and in many respects, activity was ahead of where the strategy was.
4) Ms Jackson said that the report set out the offer of support to the voluntary sector for the following 12 months and the roadmap to revising the Civil Society Strategy, which has been developed in 2019. The Civil Society Strategy was a significant political priority and the infrastructure budget to support the voluntary sector or ‘civil society’ was not a statutory requirement but was a significant contribution to the sector. This reflected the role that the sector had played in the pandemic and the role it played in the community. Close work had been undertaken via the VCS recovery cell that had been set up as part of the Kent Resilience Forum and this had improved partnership working. A Strategic Partnership Board had been established with the NHS, district and borough councils and representatives from the voluntary sector. There was also a VCS steering group made up of representatives from across the sector. Engagement forums were to set to continue to evolve.
The Strategic Recovery Fund was to provide access to support for the sector with organisational plans and strategies, digital support, diversification of income and to support volunteering. There were plans to work with volunteer centres who had provided insight into Kent’s communities and volunteers over the previous year.
Crowdfund Kent was launched in March 2021 and it was part of the Covid-19 recovery. 28 projects had received pledged funding to a value of £130,000 but the total value of those projects was £550,000. The crowdfunding approach had allowed KCC to support projects backed by their local communities. If it was successful, it was planned that crowdfunding be embedded beyond the 2 year pilot.
The Civil Strategy once agreed was to set out KCC’s long term commitments against the strategy framework and the budget was to be aligned over the 3 year cycle.
5) RESOLVED to agree the recommendations set out in the report.