Voluntary, community and social enterprise sector partnerships

Partnership working between the voluntary sector, local government and the NHS is crucial to improving care for people and communities.

The NHS Long Term Plan and NHS Five Year Forward View highlighted the need for closer working across these sectors to both improve care and support and address the wider determinants of health and wellbeing.

Integrated care systems help to bring the NHS, local government and their voluntary, community and social enterprise sector partners together to plan and deliver services, to improve the lives of people in their area.

Watch Robert’s story

Robert was struggling to adjust to living independently after being confined to a hospital bed for almost a year, during which time his wife passed away.

Everything changed, however, when Brigstock Road Medical Practice referred him to Age UK Croydon’s personal independence coordinator, Sylvarani.

Voluntary sector partnerships

Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) involvement and leadership has been key to developing rich partnerships within local health and care systems.

It is through the support of the VCSE sector that ICSs have been able to make considerable progress towards addressing health inequalities and supporting people with complex and multiple needs.

COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst for even greater integration of VCSE services and time and resources are progressively being directed towards facilitating access to employment and education, reducing loneliness and social isolation, intervening on the drivers of fuel poverty and delivering preventative interventions for crime reduction.

VCSE organisations are often embedded in neighbourhoods and have a unique advantage when it comes to engaging the most at risk and rarely heard communities. They play a key role in facilitating dialogue between the system and its residents, making sure that services are co-produced with purpose, with residents at the heart of service provision.

For the VCSE to achieve its full potential in the delivery of integrated care, it needs to be recognised fully as a part of the system. All integrated care systems are developing arrangements for partnership working with the VCSE, often via alliances reflecting the diversity of the sector.

More detail on expectations and good practice for VCSE partnerships in ICSs can be found in ICS implementation guidance on partnerships with the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector.

More case studies and resources to inspire and inform practice – for health and care professionals working within integrated care systems – can be found on the Future NHS Collaboration platform (you can request a login to access these resources from the website).