Cultural Playing Field

Volunteering Network meeting by Robin Simpson
November 28, 2013, 6:22 pm
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I was in London again on Wednesday to take part in a meeting of the Volunteering Network – the forum which brings together the England Volunteering Development Council and the National Network of Volunteer-Involving Agencies. At Wednesday’s meeting we heard from John Mohan of the Third Sector Research Centre about the The Economic and Social Research Council’s plans to explore ‘Big Data’. This will bring substantial national resources to facilitate access to large scale datasets held by organisations, local and national government. It will enable extensive cross-referencing of community level data (whilst putting in place safeguards to avoid any disclosure of individual data). ESRC will create centres of expertise to facilitate access and generate high quality research. John said this could prove to be an incredibly valuable tool for the voluntary and community sector. It will improve our ability to describe the characteristics of communities and will tell us more about who our supporters and volunteers are.

We then had a presentation from Dame Julia Cleverdon (the former Chief Executive of Business In The Community) about the recently launched campaign for youth social action. Step Up To Serve is a national campaign to inspire a generation of young people through increasing the quality, quantity and frequency of social action for all young people aged between 10 and 20. In this context social action means practical action in the service of others – of double benefit to young people themselves and the community. The goal is to double the number of young people participating in social action to over 50% by 2020. That is an additional 1.7 million young people engaging in social action for the first time. The campaign brings together leaders from across UK civic society, led by HRH The Prince of Wales and with support from all of the main political parties. Dame Julia explained that Step Up To Serve was an attempt to get away from a short-term approach to youth volunteering that has seen successive governments launch new initiatives rather than building on schemes developed by their predecessors. She was adamant that we need a long-term, cross party, approach, stressing “this is not merely a lunch, a launch and a logo”. See:

Finally we heard from Clare Delap of the Care Quality Commission about CQC’s new project with Community Service Volunteers and from Tracy Whittle of NCVO about a project to develop volunteering in care homes. NCVO has secured funding from the Department of Health until end of March 2016 to pilot volunteering in care homes with the aims of improving residents’ quality of life outcomes and strengthening local communities. Through the project’s learning, a national standard of good practice in volunteering for this sector will be developed. Working in five pilot sites and with volunteer centres and care homes, the project will aim to engage 350 residents in activities/ relationships with volunteers over 3 years. See:

Robin Simpson.

Arts participation for older people in residential and day-care settings by Robin Simpson
November 28, 2013, 5:36 pm
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I was back in London on Tuesday to chair the second of our roundtable discussions on arts participation for older people in residential and day-care settings, supported by The Baring Foundation. This was another fascinating discussion about the potential for voluntary arts groups to support arts activities in care homes, the development of opportunities for care home residents to act as creative citizens and the role of care home staff who might themselves be members of voluntary arts groups. Those taking part in the discussion on Tuesday included people who had organised arts activities in care homes, representatives of amateur arts umbrella bodies, community arts organisations, experts in adult learning and people working in different aspects of social care. We looked at the potential benefits and opportunities from involving voluntary arts groups in this activity but also at the challenges in doing so. Our consultant, Helen Fraser, is now going to pull together the conclusions of our roundtable meetings and her interviews with a wide range of experts to inform the paper she is writing for us.

Robin Simpson.