Anthea Coulter, Chief Officer comments on the background of the plan
Supporting a thriving Third Sector
Over the last six years CTSI has run two strategic plans that have aligned with a changing national and local landscape for the third sector. The first was adopted from 2017 to 2020 and it tied in with the introduction of the Community Empowerment Act 2015. We focused on supporting community capacity and helping a number of new organisations be established and take over community assets, along with developing a stronger Forth Valley Social Enterprise Network. This served the county well when the pandemic hit us in early 2020 and the community response and coordination with the local authority and health services was exceptional, and reduced the impact for so many impacted hardest by Covid-19.
From 2021 to 2023 our plan, Creating a Fairer Future for Clackmannanshire has supported services being offered more widely at a local level across communities through the third sector, using new funds like the Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund to achieve that and in light of the cost living crisis. In addition, CTSI has championed fair work principles and fairer funding for the sector. This has led to embedding the community wealth building pillars which includes fair work, community benefits and progressive procurement, improved use of land and assets, plural ownership and developing the social economy’s jobs and potential. The result is there are more third sector members based in Clackmannanshire now than three years ago and more jobs in the third sector than ever before, most of which are paid at the Real Living Wage. This has a real impact on helping the local economy.
Challenges of decline in Volunteering
However, one of the impacts of the pandemic which we have not seen reversed sadly is in volunteering. Before the pandemic our levels of volunteering had steadily increased from 25% (in 2016) up to 33%. In December the Scottish Household Survey figures showed a decrease in volunteering (figures are from surveying in 2022) across Scotland down to 22% and in Clackmannanshire a drop back to 25%. This drop was not as bad as expected and overall, Clackmannanshire remains in the top 10 of local authorities for volunteering, with rural parts of Scotland mainly out front. There are many reasons behind this drop including health conditions and the numbers of young people involved in volunteering has dropped hugely as a result of the pandemic and is only slowly recovering. Last year we saw the volunteering hours of young people involved in volunteering increase by 35% but not the numbers yet being registered. We are glad to say that this year it is the numbers of young people involved and registering we are seeing increase. But CTSI needs to do more now to reverse this trend if we are to have a thriving third sector and community anchor organisations for the future.
Volunteering is at the heart of a strong society
Volunteering is critical to our resilience going forward – we need people to feel they can be involved in their communities or their passions, making a difference to their place, people and environments. This citizenship and empowerment is at the heart of a strong society and so the youngest we can get people involved in volunteering the better – and the more skilled and involved people are in taking leading roles as trustees, the more impactful is the work that the voluntary sector can play in a successful civil society. Every volunteer should be recognised and thanked for their contributions.
During 2023, CTSI engaged with members to sense check their experiences with our own learning, and discover ways that CTSI could continue to help members. Through these discussions and our survey in the summer, we have developed a three year plan which has four strands all linked together – Volunteering & Involving people; Voluntary Leadership; Community Wealth Building and Improving Health & Wellbeing. By focusing our efforts on these areas in particular (see our ‘plan on a page’ below by clicking on the buttons), we aim to ensure that the third sector is developing, skilling up especially around areas like climate action and helping our local residents be as healthy as possible. Our measures align with a Wellbeing Economy where the measure of success is the health of its people and place first. We also want to see a third sector that is innovative, responsive and ready to deliver new services to meet changing needs in our communities. It continues to be an exciting time and CTSI will be investing in our sector to ensure it is as prepared and ready to meet the challenges of the next three years.
Anthea (wearing pink shoes) with CTSI present and former staff team members.