The contribution of the charity sector to health and wellbeing in the Home Counties

Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West VCSE Health Alliance partners have commissioned a research report from Tony Chapman and Jonathan Wistow of Policy&Practice at St Chad’s College and the Department of Sociology, Durham University. The aim of the report is to produce a clear picture on the structure, purpose, energy and impact of the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West in a comparative context.

The analysis will help to inform policy and practice debate by providing detailed analysis of sector strengths by considering: distribution of sector energy, financial robustness, workforce dynamics, quality of relationships with other sectors, partnership orientation and business confidence.

The project will complement two other studies on the role of the VCSE sector in supporting local NHS Integrated Care Partnerships (see previous news story). Each study is based on areas with very different characteristics. In Yorkshire and Humber, the study focuses on two metropolitan combined authority areas. While in Cumbria, the study is centred on a relatively spatially separate town and country area.

Collectively, the studies will collate data on the structure and activities of the VCSE sector in over twenty locations, of which 16 are designated as NHS Integrated Care System (ICS) areas. In Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West, analysis and interpretation will be especially challenging because boundaries between ICS areas are more blurred and permeable due to the proximity of Greater London. This produces complex travel to work area flows which means that resident populations can be quite different from the working population.

With comparative data to hand on statistical ‘neighbours’ and ‘strangers’ it should be possible to determine where VCSE sector operations are similar, irrespective of local circumstances and where they are different. This will produce clear messages for NHS Integrated Care Boards and Partnerships on where the transferability of policy initiatives which concern the VCSE sector are sensible and where locally oriented approaches should be adopted.