New forum for Somerset’s Voluntary community

A new opportunity for public sector partners and the major players in the voluntary community and social enterprise sector to work together has been launched in Somerset.

The Somerset Forum, which met for the first time this week, will help them share information and identify challenges and opportunities.

The forum features groups as diverse as MIND, Citizens Advice Bureaux, Healthwatch and the Social Enterprise Network Somerset; alongside public sector players such as representatives from all Somerset’s local authorities, Cabinet Office South West and the Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group.

By helping everyone to work together more closely, the forum’s aims include an increased understanding of what the voluntary sector can offer and the priorities and pressures of the public sector.

Justin Sargent from the Somerset Community Foundation, and Simon Clifford from Somerset County Council, co-hosted the first meeting.

“This was a very timely and important Forum and was welcomed by everyone attending,” said Justin Sargent. “We aim to work closely together, identify where there are opportunities and challenges and build relationships and trust across the sector and forge closer and more productive partnerships with our colleagues in the public sector. It was a highly successful first step,” he said.

“As a County Council, it is our role to help where we can but more than that, to listen to what the sector has to say,” said Clifford. “The fact that around 30 organisations were willing to give up a large part of the afternoon to come along, speak openly and positively shows that we have already gained momentum and we will work hard to keep this going.”

The first speaker at the event run at County Hall, Taunton, was Neil Cleeveley, Chief Executive of the National Association of Voluntary Community Associations who spoke about the challenges both financial and political that are current at the moment.