Community groups and services are stronger together

There is rarely a quiet moment for the teams working at Torbay Communities, but it is still important that we occasionally take time to step back and take stock.

As we move into another year (financially speaking) we have been planning for what is coming up right through to March 2025. Crystal ball anyone?

Times are hard in the Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise sector (VCSE) of which Torbay Communities is a part, as the ongoing cost of living crisis continues to take its toll on organisations across the Bay.

Life has never been easy in the VCSE sector, but financial pressures appear to be getting more acute whichever way you look and are exacerbated by an uncertain political future.

It is not for any of us in the VCSE sector to make a partisan political point but no matter who is in power, the prospect of an election always brings uncertainty and insecurity.

Nonetheless, it is important to plan around what you do know. The services VCSE organisations provide are as important, if not more important today than ever.

It is a nationwide issue, but here in the Bay, some of the pressures are even more acute, with statistics showing that we live in and alongside some communities that are struggling more than others.

We know that we have some of the poorest communities in the country and therefore face profound problems in people of all ages, as a result. With the best will in the world, those issues cannot be tackled by statutory authorities alone and the VCSE must continue to work alongside.

Funding, whether it be from government, local government or other sources such as the national lottery and various grant-giving organisations, is becoming harder to find, not that there has ever been enough to go around.

Charities across the Bay are feeling the squeeze and rarely a month goes by without the announcement of another closure which means a reduction in the support services on offer.

Here in the Bay, the VCSE sector has learned to work together to eke out the scarce resources and ensure there is little or no duplication of the services and support being offered. Much of that in recent years has revolved around the Torbay Community Helpline.

Although the Helpline was initially set up in response to the pandemic it proved so successful in pooling resources both from a financial and expertise point of view it continues to go from strength to strength.

Although it sits within Torbay Communities it is an ever-expanding partnership of charities, voluntary groups and community interest companies, each contributing its own area of expertise, ensuring the very best is achieved with the money available.

Staffed in part by volunteers, the Helpline continues to live up to its claim – One call, that’s all – in answering queries about anything and everything and ensuring the enquiry is dealt with by the right organisation in a timely manner.

Since its inception in March 2020, it has taken more than 90,000 calls and has helped around 14,000 people. Of the in excess of 17,000 adult social care enquiries, 84% were resolved by the Helpline.

And it continues to field calls about an increasingly wide range of complex subjects, not least foodbank referrals, mental health issues, financial advice, housing support, bereavement, domestic abuse, health and social care and children, young people and family support.

As well as the expertise provided by our partners we can also seek some of the help and support needed via our own teams and projects, such as the community builders, Imagine This, community transport and Live Longer Better

We are not aware of any other community helplines run in quite the same way and whilst it was born out of a need to support and care for our communities during an unprecedented crisis, it continues to provide that support and is sadly busier now than it ever has been.

It continues to provide the best and most economical support and advice available from a huge range of expert-in-their-field groups and organisations.

If you are stuck for an answer or need help or support, the number to ring is 01803 446022. One Call That’s All.

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