Ann Atkinson 2


Assembly Update – Feb 2020


You will be aware that a Statement of Intent was developed jointly and approved by the VCS Liaison Group and Cabinet in June2015, and that it was then updated in October 2018 to ensure improved partnership working between the VCS and the County Council.

Recognising that we could all readily identify instances where it appeared that the Statement of Intent had not been adhered to, the VCS Liaison Group and Cabinet agreed that it should be reviewed, strengthened and upgraded to an agreement.

The Assembly has now drawn up the draft Northumberland County Council and Voluntary and Community Sector Accord and it would be helpful to get your views on the content before it goes to the VCS Liaison Group for discussion and approval in May.  Is there anything missing? Are there additions/changes you feel should be made?  

To be successful, it is essential that officers and members of the Council and the voluntary and community sector are fully aware and adhere to the Accord.  It is important that councillors on the VCS Liaison Group champion the role of the voluntary and community sector in order to raise the profile of the sector in the Council and with wider public services.

Please read the draft Northumberland County Council and Voluntary and Community Sector Accord and send your views onto This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Assembly Survey – priorities and voice: your last chance to take part

For some weeks now, we've also been asking members to give their views on what they think the Assembly’s priorities should be focused on in the future, and how we can better represent the voluntary and community sector and have influence.  The information gathered from our simple survey will contribute to a facilitated meeting the Assembly Executive is taking part in at the end of March to discuss how the Assembly can better represent the sector – have a voice and also be heard.

Click on the link below to access the survey, which should take not more than ten minutes to complete.  Many thanks.
Take part now: 

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Ann Atkinson


June has been a busy month, with three network meetings in the north, west and south east. At each of the meetings I presented the findings from the State of the Sector workshops, which many of you will have participated in, and provided information about the Support Services Commission.

Also included was news on the activities we were undertaking to date in response to the findings of the workshops and to meet the Commission requirements.

At the North Northumberland Network meeting it was great to hear from the Community Foundation about the legacy gift left by Frank and Pat Lough for charities and community groups in North Northumberland. 100k per year will be available to support charitable activity that tackles disadvantage, strengthens communities and makes the area a better place to live.

The network meeting in West Northumberland included a presentation on a new eco-therapy charity, Heart Wood, which was set up by Chip Ponsford, a counsellor/psychotherapist. Heart Wood supports men suffering from depression.   At the South East Northumberland meeting, Sylvia Pringle from iNorthumberland talked about digital inclusion and the support available across Northumberland to develop digital skills.

At two of the network meetings concern was raised about the lack of provision for safeguarding training now that the training from Voices was no longer available. We are fortunate that lead officers of the Children and Adult Safeguarding Boards at Northumberland County Council will be providing Safeguarding training to a large group of VCS staff and volunteers on 1st July and are willing to repeat this again in six months’ time. Multi agency safeguarding children training which the voluntary and community sector can attend is detailed on the NCC website:

Towards the end of the month NCVA organised a Conference on ‘Developing Community Approaches to Tackling Poverty’, which was attended by 60 people. The event generated a lot of interest and conversation and included presentations from Alan McNiven, Chief Executive of Engage Renfrewshire, and Emma Richardson, Poverty Lead at Northumberland County Council. As a result of the interest expressed by some attendees, it was suggested that NCVA arrange a follow up meeting to discuss the value of setting up a Poverty Commission/ Poverty Truth Commission at a county level. Progress on this will be provided in a future update.

A full report from the conference will be provided soon, including the presentations and feedback from the workshops.

I also attended the launch in North Tyneside of the Clinical Commissioning Group grants programme to the voluntary and community sector to find out how it has been developed and the criteria for accessing funds that may be of help if Northumberland CCG decides to take this route in future.


Ann Atkinson

Assembly Development Officer

June 2019

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Ann Atkinson 2

Ann Atkinson: Assembly Development Officer


Assembly Update December 2019 / January 2020




Working in partnership with Northumberland County Council we organised safeguarding training in December in the west of the county and 65 people attended. There is clearly a demand for this training and funders are requiring that applicants demonstrate that safeguarding policies are in place and that staff have received training. This training will be provided again in the north of the county in the summer.

We are also pleased to report that NCVA have received funding as part of a partnership bid to deliver newly developed safeguarding resources to VCS organisations over the next two years. This will enable the provision of additional safeguarding training and resources to voluntary and community groups across the county.


Partnership working to make a difference


Workstreams are progressing and provide the opportunity to work in partnership with the county council on key themes to deliver improved services and support to individuals and communities in Northumberland so we can learn to deliver better in future. The following provides information on some of the themes where most progress has been made to date

In relation to the Financial Wellbeing theme the focus of the group is the ability to meet bills and manage finances. The group will be looking at the range and levels of advice and identifying organisations providing money management/financial advice, levels of awareness of regulationsand gaps in provision.

In terms of the Digital Transformation theme a survey has been completed by 225 people to gauge presence online and issues. This will ensure products are right and led by what people want.

In relation to Employment and Inclusion the focus is on ensuring provision is coordinated and wide ranging to develop skills for the labour market and responsive to opportunities. VCS organisations have been asked about their capacity to deliver employment and skills interventions and partnerships opportunities. The Bridge project is being seen as a model that could be duplicated in future. The other themes are not so well developed and will be reported on in future.

Other activities involved attending a Locality Review on Community Safety and the NE Child Poverty Commission Event Child Poverty 2020:still here and rising which considered not only why the 2020 target has been so badly missed but also how we can work together to put tackling child poverty and its structural causes at the top of the political agenda. Further information from the Conference and the NE Child Poverty Commission work plan will be reported once available.

If you want any more information on the topics raised please do not hesitate to get in touch.  Simply email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



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VCS Assembly Strategy and Action Plan

A draft VCS Assembly Strategy and Action Plan has been produced for 2019/20 setting out Assembly plans for the coming year.  This includes addressing issues arising from the State of the Sector report produced at the end of last year.
Assembly members are asked for any comments and views they may have and suggestions for additional activities they feel the Assembly should be involved in. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Free safeguarding training

We've arranged free safeguarding training for staff and volunteers working in the voluntary and community sector with children and vulnerable adults so that organisations can ensure all their staff have received the training required:

Free Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults Training for the Voluntary and Community Sector

Monday 1st July  9.30a.m. – 12.30pm
Stannington Village Hall, Main Street, Stannington, Morpeth NE61 6EL
You must register to attend this training so please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 01670 858688 with details of name(s) and your organisation.


‘Making Every Contact Count’

‘Making Every Contact Count’  (MECC)  enables opportunistic delivery of consistent and concise healthy lifestyle information to support making positive lifestyle changes. 

The Assembly now has representation on the MECC Steering Group, which is led by Northumbria Healthcare and Public Health.  We want to ensure that  interested voluntary and community groups are aware of this and  have an opportunity to participate in MECC training.

If you are interested in finding out more about MECC then please get in touch: email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Ann Atkinson 2


This month started with sixteen people attending Cyber Security training. The trainer demonstrated the potential ease with which your files can be accessed without the proper safety and security in place and covered targeting and untargeted attacks. It was evident that just undertaking a few key activities can help protect your organisation. Five basic controls will put you and your organisation on the path to better cyber security.

Further details at: The training was considered very useful by attendees. If you are interested in receiving Cyber Security training then do let me know.

Northumberland CVA’s AGM was held this month with over 70 attendees. After the general business of the day, the event focused on climate change and what initiatives we can take locally to help mitigate our impact on the environment and reduce our carbon footprint. Karen Bentley-Brown talked about local initiatives in her home town of Kendal, Cumbria and then attendees considered the small changes we can make in our organisations and localities. Lunch was delicious, locally sourced and provided by Full Circle Food Project. Building on responses received we will be looking to consider how as a sector we can work collaboratively and increase commitment to ethical green practices. See the list of ideas from Karen 'Now is the time to Go Green'

The VCS Assembly Executive held their quarterly meeting this month and a key feature of the meeting was a discussion on the need to review the role and activities of the Assembly and Executive, identify our priorities and what we can do to increase our voice and influence. We will be arranging a meeting of the Executive in the new year with external facilitation to explore these issues and will keep you informed and consult with you. Notes of Executive meetings are on the Assembly website.

Network meetings were held in the south east and the north of the county, with presentations on the Northumberland Lottery:, and the review of library services in the county. 

The consultation on the library service will be in a future e-bulletin and provide you with an opportunity to give your views. Meetings generated a lot of discussion, not only on these topics but in relation to organisations sharing information about their current activities and how organisations could support and assist one another. If you have not been before, do come along to your local network meeting although you are very welcome at any network meeting across the county.

Ann Atkinson

Assembly Development Officer

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A draft VCS Assembly Strategy and Action Plan has been produced for 2019/20 setting out Assembly plans for the coming year.  This includes addressing issues arising from the State of the Sector report produced at the end of last year.
Assembly members are asked for any comments and views they may have and suggestions for additional activities they feel the Assembly should be involved in. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Download the draft VCS Assembly Strategy and Action Plan

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Ann Atkinson 2


Well, the month started with the first meeting of the work stream leads: i.e. VCS and County Council leads looking at key priority themed areas to work on tangible pieces of work together that can make a positive difference to our communities.

There was a lot of discussion at the meeting and realisation that a lot of the issues being discussed, e.g. digital transformation, were cross-cutting impacting on health and social wellbeing, community spaces, financial wellbeing etc. Participants were tasked with reflecting on the discussions and considering what is most beneficial to pursue under their theme to improve outcomes for communities. Also to discuss the merits of focusing on a just a couple of themes that cut across all themes. The leads will be meeting again in November so I will be able to report on progress next month.

We are also continuing to explore wider interest among the VCS in partnership working so that we can build strong connections and be ready when opportunities arise e.g. funding bids and work together to help maintain existing services or grow new ones.

I’ve also been arranging training on a topic which I thought would resonate with most voluntary organisations and community groups, that of Cyber Security. Clearly the topic does not float everyone’s boat but it is an essential part of good governance and can protect your organisation from financial loss and data loss so we should all be aware of what we can do to keep our organisations safe from attack and less vulnerable to cyber crime. I suggest therefore that you do take some time to look at the Charity Commission report on Preventing Charity Cybercrime (link below) understand the threat and harm it can cause and actions you can take to keep your organisation safe.

Whilst we are on the topic of training, if there is specific training that you feel would be of particular value to your organisation or you think would be of wider interest to voluntary and community groups then please do get in touch with me: email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call me on 01670 858688.

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By Ann Atkinson, Assembly Develpment Officer

It is very pleasing to see that there is now a strong commitment from the County Council and Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust to build on the strengths of people in our communities to improve health and well-being which is evidenced in key strategic policies.  This means ensuring that communities have a voice in identifying their needs and priorities, are involved in planning and delivery, provided with the support they need and have increased control over their lives.

It is recognised that our communities across the county are complex and diverse and that a local approach will be essential to improve health and well-being. Northumberland County Council, in partnership with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, is committed to supporting the employment of a Locality Coordinator in each of the five local area council areas (localities) until March 2021 with the voluntary and community sector hosting the Coordinators.  The Locality Coordinators will seek to map and mobilise the knowledge, skills and time of individuals and the resources of community groups, link people to those assets, and increase the control people have over their lives, helping to build resilience, promote community cohesion and enhance quality of life.

People associate good health with having a purpose in life, feeling valued, being able to do the activities they enjoy and getting out and meeting people.  A key driver is therefore feeling part of the community so connecting people and creating community is a key activity.  The voluntary and community sector are key players in this approach and there is certainly an appetite from the sector to work with public sector partners collaboratively to improve health and well being across Northumberland as equal partners and with an equal contribution to make. However it is evident that co-design and co-production in the development of strategies, plans and services still has some way to go with commissioners recognising the involvement required of the voluntary sector and communities and willingness to share responsibility.

Whilst recognising that some progress is being made, there are questions that spring to mind in moving this approach forward.  Are partners ready to devolve power? Do health professionals see the social determinants of health as equally important as medical interventions?   It is estimated for example that 30%- 40% of GP appointments are for non-medical issues.  

Health is not driven by medicine, and building healthy communities can only come about when we improve collaboration with stakeholders, NHS providers, CCG, local authority, health and social care providers, police, fire, housing association, voluntary and community groups etc.  This requires understanding the relationship between economic, social and environmental health determinants and health outcomes at a local level, focusing on actions that will make a difference and recognising that doctors, medicines and hospitals play a minor role.

I'd love to hear from you if you'd like to share your thoughts on this subject.  Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call me on 01670 858668.

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Anne Atkinson compressed


The Assembly Executive Committee met in August. Notes of all meetings are available to view on the website. We have changed the format of these meetings to provide more time for Executive members to feedback to the committee on activities they have been engaged in that the Assembly should be aware of and provide an opportunity to discuss where further actions are required. For example a grant reduction to a VCS service from the County Council without clear explanation has led to the Council agreeing to review their decision making process for grants and commissions and provide the Assembly with information on organisations that are receiving grants and commissions.

I attended a Voluntary Sector Showcase in Hexham at the end of August and it was great to see a wide range of groups promoting themselves and encouraging local residents to join them. I took the opportunity to inform groups about the support available from Northumberland CVA and promoted the Funding Fair taking place in Hexham in October.

The VCS Liaison Group met in September, again the notes will be available on the website in due course. We presented an update on the progress of the Commission and produced a paper providing an induction to the VCSE for county councillors and the public sector. We feel that there is a need to continue to raise awareness and inform the public sector of the VCSE and for them to have a better understanding of our role and support we can offer. Indeed we did exactly that in the report we produced for Health and Wellbeing Board in September on the VCSE contribution to the Health and Wellbeing Strategy and wider agenda. The report was well received and the recommendation to recognise the valuable contribution of the VCSE and engage with the VCSE as an equal partner in strategic decision making and in the co-production of health and care services was agreed.

After a lot of discussion on our e-forum (Northumberland VINe) about the Northumberland Lottery we were hoping to hear more about it at the VCS Liaison Group but as the officer was not available it has been postponed and will be discussed at the next meeting in January. We did however emphasize that it was very concerning that this had been agreed without any engagement with the voluntary and community sector. If you are interested in hearing more about the Northumberland Lottery then let me know and I will arrange for an officer from the Council to attend a future network meeting.

Networks meeting were held in the north, south east and west in September including a break in the West Northumberland meeting to participate in the Big Sing as part of BBC Music Day, aiming to get as many people together singing the same song across the county. To coincide with the national initiative Tynedale Dementia Action Alliance aimed to get people to sing the same song in support of those living with dementia. It was well supported, uplifting and everyone felt refreshed for the rest of the meeting after a rendition of ‘Hey Jude’ , perhaps we should do this more often! Being kept informed and networking are the key benefits of these meetings to voluntary and community groups so do take the opportunity to come along. Meetings are held quarterly in the West, North and South East and advertised in the fortnightly e-bulletin.

We had a visit from Lev Pedro from the National Council for Voluntary Organisation (NCVO) in September to learn about the voluntary and community sector in the county and discuss ways that NCVO could support us to support you.  Whilst here he also attended the South East Northumberland Network meeting to hear from local community groups about their activities. Lev is leading NCVO’s work to connect more with members across the sector and gather intelligence that will help shape and improve their policy work and support offer.  He was very interested to hear about the issues facing the VCS in Northumberland and talked about similar issues facing other areas he has visited. Below is the link to the blog Lev has written based on his recent visits to infrastructure organisations across the country.

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By Ann Atkinson, Assembly Develpment Officer


It was great to have such a good turn out at the South East Northumberland VCS Network meeting in Ashington last week.  With two informative presentations and representatives from a wide range of organisations sharing information about what they were doing, it was good to see attendees identifying people they needed to talk to in more detail over lunch and sharing contact details.

Whilst we have evidence from the recent survey carried out by Northumberland County Council about Support Services that network meeting are valued and that there is a lot of support for them, I wondered what does become of those conversations and contacts that take place between different organisations after meetings?  

If your organisation has experience of gaining a particular benefit from attending a network meeting then please let us know. We would love to know the impact of these meetings beyond just knowing they are useful.  We are also aware that there is always room for improvement. Is the format right? Are there particular issues you would like to see covered or presentations on particular topics?

Do get in touch to inform us of the value you have gained from network meetings or to let us know of ways we can improve to ensure that you get the most from them.

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Anne Atkinson compressed


The month started off with 73 members of staff and volunteers of voluntary and community groups attending Safeguarding training which was provided by Robin Harper-Coulson and Karen Wright from the Council Children and Adult Safeguarding Boards. The training covered the different types of abuse, well known case studies and lessons learnt from local case studies, understanding and recognising vulnerability and risk, why and how to report concerns and good practice. Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility and your actions however small can make a difference. Safeguarding training is essential for all staff and volunteers. If you have staff and volunteers in need of introductory Safeguarding training, another session will be held at the end of the year and advertised in our e-bulletin.

I have been busy working with Executive members drawing together a report for the Health and Well-Being Board on the role of the VCSE in supporting delivery of the Health and Well-Being Strategy and wider agenda. This report it is hoped will increase awareness of not only the role but value the VCSE can bring to collaborative working to improve the health and well being of individuals and communities.

We have also been working with other county wide VCS organisations to explore partnership working identifying the experience and skills we can bring to exploit potential opportunities in the future.

I hope that you are aware that Northumberland VINe has recently been launched providing an online discussion forum for voluntary and community groups. Please sign up to have the opportunity to share issues and concerns with colleagues in the sector. We have already had discussions on Northumberland County Council’s proposed Northumberland Lottery and the Carers Innovation Fund. To join please email:- This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

If you are having a holiday, I hope that you have an enjoyable relaxing time and if staying in this country are able to dodge the heavy showers that seem to be a regular feature of this summer. At least it has been warm!


Ann Atkinson: Assembly Development Officer

6th August 2019

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