The difference the voluntary sector makes to public health and social wellbeing in Cumbria

The local voluntary, community and social enterprise sector (VCSE) in Cumbria is largely a ‘home grown’ resource, formed of many organisations and groups which were set up to tackle a wide range of local social, environmental and economic issues. 

As independent minded and autonomous entities, VCSE organisations decide what their objectives should be, garner the resources to get things done, develop and use working practices that suit them best and develop relationships with other organisations as and when this helps them to achieve their aims.

Collectively, the local VCSE sector achieves a great deal for its beneficiaries by strengthening people’s resolve to tackle difficult problems or supporting them to achieve their ambitions. And when working in complementary ways with other organisations and agencies, it can help improve the social fabric of neighbourhoods and communities.

So it is not surprising that the VCSE’s contribution to local wellbeing is much appreciated by local public bodies, such as the police and fire services, local authorities, the National Health Service and combined authorities.

Valuing the work of the local VCSE sector is one thing, but understanding how that value is produced and for what purpose is another. So this research report was commissioned to find out more about sector structure, purpose, energy and impact at a local level.

To understand what’s going on properly, it is necessary to look beyond the boundaries of a locality so that comparisons can be made with similar or different kinds of areas. Otherwise it cannot be known which aspects of the work of the local VCSE sector are distinctive, effective or particularly challenging.

This report compares the situation in Cumbria with similar kinds of town and country areas which are relatively distant from major urban or metropolitan areas, including: Northumberland, Shropshire, Suffolk, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.  And to make sense of sector dynamics further – the report also compares with major urban combined authority areas.

Using comparative statistical analysis, this report builds a comprehensive picture of sector strengths in the newly established local authorities of Cumberland and Westmorland and Furness and its willingness to work alongside or in partnership with local public agencies, businesses and other VCSE organisations.

The full report can be downloaded here:

A shorter report is also available here:

The report forms part of a wider set of parallel studies on combined authorities (centred on Yorkshire and Humber) and the home counties (with a special focus on Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire).