Somerset State of the Sector Report

Commissioned by several key community organisations, this survey collected evidence from charities and voluntary groups from across the county, including responses from each of the district areas, about the issues and challenges they are currently facing as well their development and support needs. Read the entire report here

There are more than 2800 registered charities in Somerset, the majority of which are micro (less than £10k turnover pa) or small-sized (between £10k – 100K) organisations and there are many more informal community groups. Together these organisations play an enormous role in public life in the county often through the efforts of large numbers of committed volunteers and supported by volunteer Boards of Trustees.

As public services are increasingly stretched, the pressure on these charity and voluntary groups is set to grow and most are expecting increased demand for their services.

The report gives a picture of a sector under great pressure caught between reducing resources and growing needs for their services. Most organisations also reported a growing complexity of issues faced by their clients.

It highlights the need for more community services to support young people, people experiencing mental health issues, people with autism, people who are economically disadvantaged and people experiencing social isolation and loneliness.

However there is evidence of enormous commitment and optimism with many organisations planning to deliver more services next year, many working in partnership with other organisations and more planning to explore these opportunities.

This report is an important benchmark of the charity and voluntary sector in Somerset. For those of us who know the sector well it’s a true picture of largely small groups being creative and innovating with hugely committed volunteers but struggling to raise the funds they need to cover essential costs.’ Liz Simmons: Somerset VCSE Strategic Forum.

Leader of Somerset County Council, Cllr John Osman said: “This survey reflects both the importance of the work local organisations do as well as the pressures we are all under.

“It strongly reinforces the need to work together and we know that the voluntary sector can play a vital role in support of many of our hugely valued services, particularly in the area of helping people retain and regain their independence.

“We are working hard to develop closer links with the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector to achieve this.”

But how can the public get involved?

“Many of these groups rely heavily on volunteers to support their important work. They work tirelessly to support people in need, but they always need more help. Volunteering for a cause that matters to you can be a great experience in itself – with the added benefit that you are helping others and supporting your community.” Katrina Midgley – Engage

For further information about the survey please contact Liz Simmons: 01460 57205

 

Somerset County Council has established a £1 million Somerset Social Enterprise Fund (SSEF) with the Somerset Community Foundation.  The fund will help prospective and established social enterprises in Somerset develop sustainable services for communities.

 

Social enterprises can apply for loans for any number of reasons including purchasing equipment or vehicles, improving the property they operate from or to enable and support organisational growth and development.

Cllr John Osman, Leader of Somerset County Council said: “Social enterprises in Somerset are key in helping us deliver on our priorities to promote Somerset as a thriving economy and as a place where people can access the good quality services they need.  By reinvesting in the community, and often providing vital services to our residents, without aiming to take any profit for themselves, social enterprises help us, in the Council, in so many ways.”

“The Somerset Social Enterprise Fund has been set up to recognise the importance of social enterprises and to give them the opportunity to continue to grow and develop more sustainable services for our residents.”

Justin Sargent, Chief Executive of Somerset Community Foundation, said: “Somerset Community Foundation is delighted to be working in partnership with Somerset County Council to deliver this vitally important investment into our communities.  Social enterprises have a major role to play in tackling social needs and stimulating the local economy, and this new fund will help accelerate growth and development in the sector. It will complement our existing grants programmes but by ‘recycling’ this fund through carefully targeted loans its value to our communities will be greatly increased.”

On average there are around 300 winter-related deaths in Somerset each year, the majority of which are people over 65 years old.  Across Somerset it is estimated there are almost 5,000 pensioner households living in fuel poverty and the impact of cold weather and cold homes brings unseen misery and suffering to hundreds of people in our communities, sometimes with fatal consequences.

The appeal has received endorsement from the Bishop and Bath and Wells, Peter Hancock, who added:

“Every so often a campaign comes along that just makes sense.  The Surviving Winter Campaign is one of those. People who feel they can live without their winter fuel payment donate the money to help those struggling to pay fuel bills this winter. With increasing food and fuel bills some of our elderly neighbours are facing the stark choice of whether to heat or eat.  That shouldn’t happen. Whilst not at the age to qualify for the fuel payment just yet, I will be donating to the campaign and encourage others to do so too.”      

The campaign has also received backing from Michael Eavis, who has supported the appeal since its inception in 2010. He said:

“This campaign appealed to me right from the start. I’m so pleased that it’s spread across the country with such amazing success. I think if all the people that can afford to buy their own fuel gave their allowance to Somerset Community Foundation, thousands of our pensioners would have a much happier Christmas. I’m very happy to donate my Winter Fuel Payment to Somerset Community Foundation again this year.”

To donate or find out more, please click here or call 01749 344949

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HRH The Prince of Wales attended a reception at Stoke St Gregory villllage hall today to hear first hand about the plight of rural communities who are struggling with severe floodings as a result of the wettest January since records began.

In response, the Prince’s Countryside Fund has announced it will donate £25,000 from its Emergency Fund to the Foundation’s Emergency Flood Relief Appeal.

These additional funds take the total amount donated to the Emergency Flood Relief Appeal to just under £100,000, and much closer to the £150,000 target.  Justin Sargent, Chief Executive of the Foundation said, “The very generous grant from the Prince’s Countryside Fund has come at a critical time as we continue to respond to the growing need within the communities on the Somerset levels. This additional funding means that in the next few days we will be able to expand our support to micro-businesses as well as continuing to help households through this difficult time.”

Victoria Elms from the Prince’s Countryside Fund said “Rural communities in the Southwest are facing a second consecutive year of flooding. We hope this financial aid will go some way to supporting the communities who are facing severe hardships as a result of the flooding. Rural businesses are key to thriving communities and we want to help hard hit villages back on their feet and open for business.”

To find out more click here

 

Disabled pensioners whose homes have been flooded with raw sewage and families with young children who have had to move out are amongst those who have been helped with the costs of emergency repairs, pumping and drying, and emergency accommodation. Some cannot afford flood insurance at all, while others have up to £10,000 excess to pay.  In a number of cases, people had only just recently moved back into their homes following last year’s flooding.

Bishop Peter said: “I have recently visited some of the areas affected by the floods and witnessed the heartbreaking reality in which many individuals, families and businesses find themselves. People who have lived in the area for over 30 years have never seen conditions so bad. Somerset Community Foundation is taking action to support those families and businesses in most need of financial support. I am grateful for everything the SCF continues to do for the people of Somerset and am pleased to be able to lend my support to this urgent cause. My prayers and thoughts are with all those who are suffering due to the flooding this winter.”

MP, David Heath said “I know how important this fund is to people who are facing real problems due to the floods and it’s great to know that donations are coming in from people who care about their neighbouring communities here in Somerset and want to make an important and timely difference.”

Thanks to the donations received so far the Foundation is introducing ‘Phase 2’ relief grants. From Tuesday (4th February) any household that has been adversely affected by the flooding, directly or indirectly, may apply for grants up to £1,000 to offset any financial hardship caused by the flooding, either through extra costs or loss of earnings. Priority will be given to those most urgent cases and the most vulnerable households.

Justin Sargent, Chief Executive of the Foundation, said “The extent and duration of the flooding is taking an unprecedented toll on individual households and whole communities. We have already seen a marvellous response from the rest of the County and far beyond which is enabling us to increase and broaden the range of people we are able to help.  We want to make sure people and the communities they live in survive the immediate crisis, but also get the support they need to recover and put their lives back together in the coming weeks and months.”

While the focus remains on individuals and families, the Foundation is looking closely at whether support may be offered to micro-businesses that have lost stock, vital equipment or trade. Justin Sargent added “We recognise the importance of small businesses in the rural community. They are essential in the local economy and local community life, and if we can help those most affected get back on their feet we will.”

Donations to the fund can be made here or by calling 01749 344949 (Mon-Friday 9am-5pm) or by sending a cheque payable to the Somerset Community Foundation  to Yeoman House, Bath and West Showground, Shepton Mallet, BA4 6QN


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