Better Together VCS Forum



The Better Together VCS (Voluntary and Community Sector) Forum brings together senior representatives of larger or specialist VCS organisations with a countywide remit to share best practice and look for new opportunities to collaborate. 

The forum meets bi-monthly and is chaired by the VCS representative on the County Durham Partnership Board, Jo Laverick, Executive Director of Durham Community Action. Support for the forum is provided by Ian Hunter Smart in the County Durham Partnership Team - telephone 03000 263595 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Member Organisations

Meeting dates 2019



Better Together Policy Forum - Save the date

This is to remind you that the next Better Together Policy Forum will be on the theme of Social Value.

It will be on the morning of Friday 13th September, at Bowburn Community Centre. We’ll be sending out more information after the holidays, so this is a reminder to mark the date in your diaries.

We’ll be hearing from the head of procurement at Durham County Council, who will bring a national and regional overview. We’re also aiming to include a perspective from the VCS, and there will be opportunities to share your experience and views with other procurement leads, and elected members, through round table discussions.

To help us develop the focus a bit more, please could you think about any special interests and asks your organisation might have with regard to social value?

To help prompt ideas, I have attached a summary of the feedback we had from you when we asked about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) last this still current or have you got new ideas or challenges?

We’d also like to hear from you if you have specific experience or examples of using any tools to help you evaluate your own social value and demonstrating your impact for funders or commissioners.

We’d love to hear from you, so send any thoughts to Ian This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or I before the end of August.  

I’m aiming to draft a more detailed briefing note in preparation for the Policy Forum at that point, so it would be good to give our presenters an up to date picture of your interests.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Better Together VCS Forum – 25th June 2019

The better together meeting was held on the 25th June and the Notes and presentation are linked below


VCS Alliance

Adult Skills

Clore Leadership Training

A reminder of three important opportunities for the voice of the Third Sector to be heard – please respond if you can and disseminate to your networks /beneficiaries as appropriate.

Third Sector Trends in the North of England 2019

Durham 2035 – a vision for County Durham

Durham History Centre Phase 2 Consultation

Better Together VCS Forum – 9 April 2019

The better together meeting was held on the 9th Aopril and the Notes and presentation are linked below



Social Prescribing VCS Policy Forum Report

Dear Colleague,

We’re attaching the competed Briefing Note for the VCS Social Prescribing Policy forum for you to make use of.  Many thanks to those of you who contributed your thoughts and helped to develop the paper. You’ll see a section which sets out the Next Steps, towards the end of the paper, where we have noted how and through which networks this Note will be disseminated. Please do also send it through your own networks if you think it would be helpful 

Since the forum, the conversation about Social Prescribing in County Durham is continuing. We know that commissioners and service leads are interested in finding the best possible fit for workers who perform the roles of linking and enabling people to reach community based services. There is also a clear acknowledgement that link workers need to have access to sustainable community resources, so there is an on-going discussion through partnerships about how this can be supported. Keep an eye out for further developments during the spring and summer and we will keep you in the loop about any new or different opportunities for you to get involved with.

Key areas of importance with respect to social prescribing include:

  • Achieving a consistent and strong network of potential link workers, with county wide coverage
  • Learning from experience within the sector
  • Engagement with primary care
  • Investment and help for community led services which provide social, leisure and community support.
  • Shaping the contributions of specialist service providers who are addressing mental health and wellbeing.

There will be further opportunities to network and share your knowledge, and to consider opportunities for collaborative working as service providers. We’ll promote any opportunities as they arise and also hope that you will keep on sharing your own insights and experience so that it can add to the overall social prescribing asset base for the County.

Thanks for all your participation and contributions so far,

All best wishes,

Joanna Laverick, Executive Director

Durham Community Action, 9 St Stephen’s Court, Low Willington, County Durham DL15 0BF

Direct line: 01388 742041  Main line: 01388 742040

IC+/ Crisis Response

As part of the procurement process for the Community Contract in County Durham, CDDFT gave assurances they would work with partners to maintain safe hospital discharge and further develop crisis response services (including Intermediate Care).  We are now taking this opportunity to look at the existing Intermediate Care Service, particularly its `step up’ and `step down’ functions to see how we can provide the best possible care for our population. 

We are keen to talk to people who have an interest in how the service looks and operates in the future and how it can best align with our TAPs model.

We would like to hear your views on the existing intermediate care service and any suggestions you have for strengthening either the “step up” or “step down” function to enable us to make changes that improve our offer in County Durham.  Please contact Wendy Lyons (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) by no later than 8th March to offer your comments.

Essentially, some of the areas we would like to look at are 

  • Growing the TAP service so that specialist NHS interventions can be uitlised to prevent hospital and long term care admissions
  • Strengthening the service available from locality social workers to support crisis and step up interventions
  • Ensuring the hospital discharge function is safe, effective and well managed
  • Expanding upon the principles of Trusted Assessment to reduce duplication and simplify service delivery
  • Building upon the Integration of Health and Social Care in County Durham.

We will keep people informed as discussions progress.  It is important to note that we are committed to making the service responsive and effective in terms of maintaining the health and wellbeing of users of our services, preventing dependency and keeping people at home for longer.

Social Prescribing Follow up

Thank you for making the time to come along and contribute to the VCS Social Prescribing Policy Forum, which was held at Durham Town Hall on 8th February. We have attached a set of notes in draft form which will be circulated much more widely as a briefing note of the event.

If you have any additional comments or thoughts you would like to ensure are incorporated, please do send a note to Ian or I.  

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Please note, we need to keep the paper brief (nobody reads more than a couple of pages!) so we can’t incorporate any lengthy input or single out individual organisations or programmes unless directly relevant to the wider debate. 

We are working to a tight timescale because there is a lot of strategic development work on social prescribing which is on-going and we really need to keep a current VCS voice in the frame. The deadline for any additional contributions is Friday 8th March please.After that, we’ll be circulating the finished paper for wider distribution and asking you to share it with your colleagues and networks too.

Many thanks and all best wishes,


Feedback from the Better Together VCS Forum 4th Dec

Please find attached the notes from the meeting held on 4th December together with the dates and venues for meetings in 2019.

We also attach a copy of the presentation delivered by Jo Laverick to the County Durham Partnership Board on 21st November 2018.

And finally, a reminder of the Consultation on the development of the new County Durham Partnership Vision – please do give us your views if  you can and promote it where you can:  Durham 2030 - our vision for the future  Thank you.

County Durham Partnership

Transformation and Partnerships

Durham County Council

Room 5-140/150

County Hall

03000 263593

E mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Next Better Together Forum 4th Dec

We look forward to seeing you at the next Better Together VCS Forum to be held on Tuesday 4th December at 1.00pm at Humankind (formerly DISC) Sapphire House, IES Centre, Horndale Avenue,

Newton Aycliffe, DL5 6DS.

The agenda and notes from the last meeting (previously circulated), and meeting dates for 2019 are attached, together with a copy of the current VCS representatives on the AAPs for your information and as promised.

Please let us know whether or not you are able to attend or whether you will be sending a representative. Please reply to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Mental Health - Better Together VCS Policy Forum Report

You may have participated in, or been aware of the Policy Forum about Mental Health, which was convened on Friday 6th July. This was the first in series of Policy Forums which are being coordinated via the Better Together Forum. Better Together is an informal network of county wide and specialist VCS organisations which provide services for communities across County Durham.

The Forum attracted a broad cross section of stakeholders with an interest and in-depth understanding about how mental health support is being provided in the County. Delegates included elected members, VCS service providers, commissioners, NHS Foundation Trust managers and CCG representatives. The content provided an overview about how governance and commissioning is emerging and developing across both health and social care sectors, how services are provided via TEWV, and the challenges and opportunities which VCS providers of mental health support services are working with. The underlying theme was one of cross sector partnership working, which is why we are keen to share messages from the delegates who took part.

We’re pleased to be able to circulate the attached report, which summarises the presentations from the morning and the ensuing discussions. I’d like to draw your attention to the next steps we agreed as a result, and which are detailed at the end of the four page report.

If you have any queries or would like any additional information, please do contact me This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or Ian Hunter Smart This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , who is supporting the Better Together Network.