Why ‘not for profit’ is a major asset

Daniel Williams. Picture: Aylsham Care Trust

Daniel Williams. Picture: Aylsham Care Trust - Credit: Aylsham Care Trust

Opinion: Daniel Williams on why decision-makers must listen to the community before making changes to social care.

Aylsham & District Care Trust celebrated its 31st anniversary in April. Founder Rees Coghlan and cha

Aylsham & District Care Trust celebrated its 31st anniversary in April. Founder Rees Coghlan and chairman Jenny Manser cut the birthday cake. Decision-makers must listen to organisations such as this, says Daniel Williams. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Usually it is only at the point of greatest need when the presence and relevance of services provided by the 'not for profit' sector are really noticed. Could an improved strategic alignment of these resources alongside our burgeoning statutory health and social care services better serve our communities?

I have spent my life working in what is described as the 'not for profit' sector, a phrase often used to describe charities, voluntary and community-based organisations and social enterprises. The primary purpose for these organisations is to achieve desired social outcomes as opposed to generating a financial profit.

I have run the local branch of a national charity in Norfolk and have also run local charities. Now I run my own business supporting a number of Norfolk-based charities. A major part of this work is to engage with the various government bodies responsible for delivering social outcomes as part of their statutory duty of care, as defined through legislation.

With public finances under ongoing scrutiny those of us who work in the health and social care sectors are very aware of the impact this is having across some of our more vulnerable communities. Norfolk is already the 'oldest' county per head of population in the UK and this demographic trend will only serve to exasperate the challenges across our systems. There is a very clear need not just for a change in thinking, but perhaps also for a change in the organisations sitting at the strategic table.

The Norfolk and Waveney Sustainability and Transformation Plan is a partnership of 15 health and social care organisations which recognises this need for a change, they recognise that the current structure and approach for delivering health and social care in our county is unsustainable. The partnership is tasked with innovating current service models and implementing the changes needed in order that they can continue to offer 'safe and sustainable quality services'. There is a breadth of experience across the 'not for profit' sector which I feel certain could add considerable value to this partnership and planning process; what is needed is an appropriate forum to fully engage the diversity of resource available.

In June this year I took on the executive lead role for the Aylsham Care Trust. A charity founded 30 years ago by local man Rees Coghlan, with a core primary objective being the amelioration of loneliness. Rees was a pharmacist by profession and his experience of running four businesses across different Norfolk market towns had shown him that loneliness manifested itself at his advice counters, at the local GP surgery and indeed across our acute healthcare services. Today at the heart of the charity which he founded are a series of luncheon clubs, community and volunteer transport schemes and other initiatives aimed at helping to keep an ageing population feeling that they are still very much a part of their community.

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Our county is blessed with 'not for profit' organisations focusing their objectives in similar ways across the health and social care agenda. Aylsham Care Trust and dozens of other organisations are born of our communities, they are born of the experience of those who founded them. These organisations are of our communities, they have years of learning and experience as to what works and what does not, they have hundreds of volunteers working as trustees at strategic level and throughout them on the coal face. Most importantly these organisations have the trust, confidence and support of our communities.

This trust, confidence and support is translated to action through the love of the volunteers and the love of donors and supporters, many of whom will entrust their own personal financial legacy to the trusteeship of these organisations.

Any strategic plan for the re-configuration of our health and social care system must take full account of the community assets which exist across our 'not for profits'. Leaders of statutory commissioning bodies and 'not for profits' must find a more constructive strategic forum through which they can share this agenda.