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Chief Executive – July Blog

CHRIS ON – SUFFOLK’S TURN TO SPEAK UP ON RECOVERY

Since my last article, there’s undoubtedly been a significant change in how we’re ‘living alongside’ the virus and all it represents.

I, for one, have just started returning to the offices of Community Action Suffolk for one day a week. And, alongside me, some of my staff are returning too – after many months of working from home.

Throughout the sector, and among the organisations we support, those changes are happening too. Some are opening premises, taking their services ‘on the road’ again, helping families ‘in person’, and bringing employees back from furlough.

As we tip-toe into a ‘new normal’ and begin to consider what’s needed of a recovery phase, I’m finding myself constantly wondering what it is I would ask of the Prime Minister if he were to walk into the offices of Brightspace and seek the opinions of my team.

Whilst I can’t promise to get his ear, I’m conscious that we do have a timely opportunity in this county to start giving the views of the VCSE sector to the government.

Late last month, Boris Johnson called on MP Danny Kruger to review the role that the sector will play in Covid recovery. Boris has asked him to work alongside Baroness Barran (who you will recall visited Suffolk only last year), and to provide ideas and proposals by Friday 24th July.

I have written to Mr Kruger and offered to host a web-based roundtable, and while he hasn’t as yet taken me up on this, we do still have the opportunity to go back to him within the next week about our own suggestions and aspirations.

Today, therefore, I’d like to ask for your contribution.

To help guide your thoughts, I’m outlining here some of the Suffolk achievements which I feel have been realised in the EIGHT key areas on which the PM is seeking response:

1. Civil Society Supporting the NHS and Public Services –

Dr Dean Dorsett, an Ipswich GP, has described the voluntary sector as the ventilator to the NHS. I agree with this wholeheartedly.

The sector has shown enormous support and has created some fabulous collaborations with the NHS during the Pandemic, like the At My Bedside initiative established by Suffolk Family Carers.

2. Social infrastructure –

Our volunteering efforts throughout this period have been phenomenal. Communities have come together like never before to look after the needs of their local residents, and have provided a strong basis to build better social connections.

3. How Civil Society can help the unemployed

Citizens Advice in Suffolk has seen a vast increase in clients seeking support because of their risk of redundancy or having recently been made unemployed. Also worthy of note, is the Minding the Gap Project, which is actively helping young people with significant barriers to access work, education or training.  

4. Public Procurement

Successful Commissioning of Services for our most vulnerable has never been more important, whether it’s family support, mental health, community transport or working with the homeless. These areas are vital to Suffolk’s ability to cope during this time and it needs to be effective.

5. Philanthropy, Social Investment, Business

It’s been great to work in partnership with Suffolk Community Foundation in their campaigning since the early days of the pandemic, helping to ensure funding could support the ongoing needs of our sector, and accessing philanthropic generosity at an entirely new level.

6. Faith Groups

I’ve been hugely impressed by the incredible work that the Church of England here in our region has been doing around pastoral support, and kindness to those who have been bereaved. Their involvement has played an integral role in our community response too.

7. Young People

Every day of the pandemic response I’ve heard of fabulous stories of the young people who’ve come forward to volunteer and have really done such great things in the heart of the county to support their neighbours and our sector organisations. We need to embrace this, as they are the future.

8. Data and Technology

The sector can certainly applaud itself for having been so agile in its efforts to embrace technology and create a swift and efficient new approach to dealing with service users. We’ve shown ourselves to be very versatile and adaptable.

Now for your turn.

What do you think we’ve been doing well across these eight areas, and what more does Suffolk need across these themes, to help us succeed and thrive in the recovery phase and beyond?

I welcome your contributions and ideas by Thursday 23rd July, so that I can be sure to get these in front of Mr Kruger.

While we may not be able to guarantee that our county will be specifically taken into account, we can at least apply effort to having our voice heard.

Please feel free to drop me an email, labelled ‘Recovery Response’ to chris.abraham@communityactionsuffolk.org.uk