Spotlight on the RSP - November 18 Edition

We are thrilled by the ever-increasing interest in the Rural Services Partnership and the variety of organisations that have joined this month are a clear example of its diverse representation.
This month we’ve been joined by Vectos, The National Care Forum, Bipolar UK and The Foundation for Social Improvement.  
To see more about the new and existing Rural Services Partnership members click here


Here are some examples of the work undertaken by RSP member:  


The Blackdown Support Group

Social Prescribing in a Rural Location since 1991

The rurality of the Blackdown Hills, designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, hides the deprivation and isolation experienced by residents who are old, infirm or alone. Because of the extent and geographical spread of the area, the resources and time spent by the statutory bodies travelling between clients are extremely stretched, and services are difficult to access for those unable to drive given the absence of public transport services.

The Blackdown Support Group started out in 1991 as a community self-help scheme to address this problem, supported and sponsored by the local GP Practice. Now a registered charity working from an office within one of the surgeries, GPs, Community Nurses or other health professionals are able to refer patients to the Blackdown Support Group for various volunteer-led services including community transport, social activities, befriending and advocacy.

Often by improving access to social activities, people are able to improve their own health and well-being without recourse to medical treatment. The benefits of the social prescribing model are being increasingly recognized at a national level. A recent study by the University of Westminster reports that “It is estimated that around 20% of patients consult their general practitioner (GP) for what is primarily a social problem (Low Commission, 2015). It has been suggested that referral to a social prescribing service could reduce this pressure.”

The Blackdown Support Group is currently working closely with the GP Practice along with other local community and voluntary organisations to identify specific local needs and to consider how these services can be expanded or enhanced to meet those needs. In the meantime, local residents continue to appreciate and enjoy the services currently provided, enabling them to get around more easily, make and meet friends and to feel they are cared for.

For more information on Social Prescribing click here


The Institute of Economic Development (IED)

The IED is the UK’s leading independent professional body representing economic development and regeneration practitioners working for local and regional communities. Nigel Wilcock, Executive Director of the Institute of Economic Development, has some major concerns about the implications for the declining high street.

The general public have not yet caught up with the fact that no-one knows how local government will be funded beyond 2020 – or that the seemingly unrelated crisis on the High Street, with large chains collapsing all around us, is increasingly a contributor to this issue.

The basic problem is that councils were supposed to be self-financed by 2020 through the retention of business rates and with a formula to redistribute from those areas with a large amount of related revenue to those with less.

The Local Government Finance Bill to enable this to happen was omitted from the last Queen’s Speech after being dropped from the government’s agenda due to the quickly-called 2017 General Election – and now there is no plan.

The Local Government Information Unit has noted that 80% of councils fear for their financial sustainability and there is concern that the cash-ravaged Northamptonshire County Council is the tip of the iceberg for local authorities.

The uncomfortable truth that needs to be heard is that every pound lost on business rates is now a pound lost to essential local government services. Retail is a huge contributor of business rates and critically important to the remaining sources of local government funding.

Every time there is another large-scale retail closure, such as the recent House of Fraser announcements in Edinburgh, Hull and Swindon, there is a growing clamour for rates to be reduced to shore up the distressed retail sector. Throw in the usual demands for free parking in council-owned car parks to support town centres and local government faces a perfect storm.

For millions of UK residents, it is unclear how adult and children’s social services will be run in the future, how local roads will be maintained and whether any libraries and leisure centres will remain open – not to mention how local government workers will be paid their pensions.

The Local Government Finance Bill was supposed to deal with this uncertainty. Now we are looking at a worse-case scenario where the central government funding mechanism finishes in 2020 but without a plan to pick up the pieces.

Overall, there is a need for a greater spotlight on local government finance. The ‘Future of Local Government Funding’ may be on the agenda at this week’s Local Government Strategy Forum in Cheshire, but we need a public debate – a debate which would be better served if information was clearer on exactly what services now need to be funded by local taxation.

There is a case for be made for linking this to the new UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) – although the title may seem like ‘schadenfreude’ to some local authorities. Government is currently consulting on the creation of a system to replace the European programmes that fund local services and regeneration programmes which come to an end for the UK in 2020 (or presumably in 2019 if there is a ‘no deal’ Brexit). The redistributive mechanism for business rates seems to be closely related to the required allocation of funds to underperforming regions within UKSPF.

From the IED’s perspective, it seems that if statutory activities are forced on local authorities there should either be some central funding – or that local authorities are given more freedom over the tax revenues they can generate. We urge a clear statement for local government funding post-2020 and suggest that the formula for redistributing business rates is pegged to the same distributive formula as the UKSPF.

Finally, it should not go unnoticed that those local authorities which have been the most successful in their economic development approaches are now in the best position to survive.

Nigel Wilcock is Executive Director of the Institute of Economic Development


The Foundation for Social Improvement

The Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI) is one the RSP’s newest members. We’re looking forward to working with the FSI to enhance the opportunities for small rural charities and community organisations to build their skills and develop funding opportunities. 


Free and heavily subsidised support for small rural charities
- Join the FSI today -

We’re working with the Rural Services Partnership to help small rural charities and community organisations build the fundraising, governance and strategy skills they need to survive and thrive. If you work for, volunteer with or support a local charity, make sure they join the FSI for free today.

Who are we?

The Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI) is a charity established in 2007 with a mission to support small charities across the UK to become more sustainable and continue their vital work. We do this by delivering free and heavily subsidised training events, online courses and webinars, advice clinics, conferences, research, and campaigns including Small Charity Week.

Why do we exist?

97% of the UK's charities have a turnover of less than £1 million, yet 81% of all funding available goes to the biggest 3%. Our Small Charity Index shows that demand for small charities’ services has increased by 147% over the past five years, in the face of largely static income. Those affected have to prioritise their limited resources on providing front line services, so it can be hard to focus on building skills and capacity to become more sustainable long-term.

What do we do?

The FSI aims to address these challenges and inequalities by providing high-quality training, uniquely designed for small charities, at an affordable price. We support thousands of small charities throughout the UK by offering over £3m worth of free and heavily subsidised services each year.

Browse our full suite of support on our website, or get in touch to find out how we can help.

Why should your organisation join?

“Brilliant inspirational trainers, extremely well organised training at a fantastic price and essential for smaller organisations like ours so we can move forward and thrive.”
Joy Garland - YMCA Taunton

  1. It’s free and easy!
  2. Access training, online learning and conferences for just £5 - £25. Training covers topics including fundraising, impact measurement, governance, project management and more. 95% of attendees in 2017/18 would recommend!
  3. Receive our monthly members’ newsletter packed with sector news and funds specifically selected for small charities
  4. Get your voice heard through our quarterly Index and biennial Skills Gap research
  5. If your turnover is under £50k, you’ll be able to join our strategic partner NCVO for free too!

Deadline approaching: Free bursary places to transform your fundraising

Small charity under £50k turnover? Apply by 9th November for a free place on our interactive e-learning version of one of our most popular courses, Developing Your Fundraising Strategy. Work out where your charity should focus its fundraising efforts for greatest returns, without having to travel. Over £50k? Prices start from just £25.

Join the FSI for free now to access all this and more.


Youth Employment UK

The Youth Employment UK is a new RSP member and have just completed a very interesting census which looks at the experience s of 14-24-year olds transitioning between education and employment. To find out more take a look at the following link


Promoting Rural Best Practice

Many of our members are keen to tell you more about their organisations excellent work and with this in mind we have developed a unique area on our website as a resource for them to do so. This can be found here.

Equally, the RSP are keen to provide opportunities for RSP members to promote their work to the wider RSN network of 25,000, which includes over 140 LAs, community organisations, rural businesses, and parish councils, to mention but a few. Members can send through this information by emailing Jon Turner.

Why Not Join Up!

The RSP exists to enable the issues facing the rural areas of England to be identified, information and good practice to be shared and government to be challenged to address the needs and build on the opportunities which abound in rural areas.

If you know a rural organisation that would benefit from membership, please ask them to consider joining us.  The RSP is a solely rural focused organisation with an electronic distribution network in excess of 25,000 individuals.  We reach all sectors of rural England and provide a sustained and respected voice for rural areas at national level.  Anyone who wants to talk to us about our role and services of the RSP please take a look at the link https://www.rsnonline.org.uk/page/about-the-rsp  or contact Jon Turner to find out more.

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