The local Voluntary and Community Sector

Southwark’s Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) is a key part of the fabric of society and crucial to the wellbeing of local people.

We conducted research in 2012/13 as a foundation for our Value the VCS campaign to raise policymakers' appreciation of the importance of the sector, incorporating films giving the perspectives of staff and service users at a variety of local organisations. In early 2015 we repeated both the Count Us In survey and our detailed analysis of the charity sector in order to see what has changed.

For a colourful overview of the key findings of the new research - the makeup, activities, value, vulnerabilities and resilience of the sector - see Southwark's VCS Factsheet.

For a full report with further information, details of the changes since 2012, comparisons of larger and smaller organisations, and a detailed methodology, please click here.

We will continue to use this information to speak up on behalf of voluntary and community organisations, and to develop the help offered by Community Southwark. It will also contribute to specific suggestions for ways the Council and other statutory bodies can support the sector to thrive into the future.

Key messages about the value of the Voluntary and Community Sector

  • The VCS both builds and draws on the capacity of communities to support themselves and the most vulnerable. It enriches lives and makes Southwark a healthier, safer place.
  • The VCS supports local economic wellbeing. Like the public and private sectors, the VCS spends money locally, contributing to business. It provides paid employment so that people can support themselves. It also develop the skills of volunteers as well as service users, contributing to better job prospects, personal wellbeing, and a diverse economy.
  • The VCS makes resources go further. Funds contributed by public bodies lever in other money from trusts, businesses and individuals, and many voluntary organisations also generate their own funds. The VCS benefits from donations in kind from other organisations and the value of volunteering has no parallel in any other sector. Distinct from the private sector, the VCS uses all of its resources (directly or indirectly) for the public benefit rather than to make profit for shareholders.
  • The VCS has other distinctive characteristics which bring extra value to its work. For example, voluntary & community organisations are often run by local people with a personal knowledge of specific needs, they may be trusted by hard-to-reach groups who find it difficult to engage with the public sector, they could act as a ‘critical friend’ to policymakers. They help people to help themselves as well as providing professional services.
  • Importantly, VCOs not only help deliver public services, but also go beyond the minimum of what must be provided by law. As well as providing support to those in crisis who don't know where to turn, they often work in a preventative way, avoiding additional costs to the public sector in the future.

Contact Catherine at catherine@communitysouthwark.org for more information about the research and its findings.