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November 2020 WAM GI Voluntary Sector Forum Summary

Thanks to continued funding support from Berkshire Community Foundation, The Prince Philip Trust, Windsor & Maidenhead Christian Trust, Abri (formerly Radian Housing) and Tesco, we were able to continue the WAMGI Forum with a Zoom session hosted by Slough CVS on 18 November. The Forum was chaired by Tom Conlin of Berkshire Charity Mentors and the focus was on the nature of the support the voluntary sector has been able to provide during the pandemic restrictions and how this may need to be adapted as we move into 2021. Due to broadband issues in parts of Windsor and Maidenhead 37/47 people who registered for the Forum attended. Those who did participate represented over 25 different voluntary sector organisations serving the Royal Borough. Six groups provided updates on how they have adapted to the different demands of the lockdown era, specifically Henrietta Court from the Adult Dyslexia Centre; Sasha Bardwell and Helen Park from Magpies Community Care and Magpies in the Community respectively; Helen Goodwin from the Sunninghill & Ascot Hub; Tiia Stephens from Driven Forward; Paul Samuels from Men’s Matters & the WAMCF Interfaith Group; and Rebecca Mistry from The Baby Bank.

Asma Aziz from WAMGI provided details of the training available for VSOs during November and December and asked all attendees to put forward their own suggestions on other training needs that WAMGI could look to address in 2021. The Forum then split into 5 breakout groups to consider two questions:

1) How we can work together to best meet the needs of our vulnerable communities and help the through the second lockdown and the future impact of the pandemic;

2) How can we adapt our services moving forward into 2021 to meet the needs of our residents and communities

The key messages that emerged centred on the need for better communication between RBWM, voluntary sector organisations (VSOs) and the general public, as to what voluntary services are available and how they can be accessed; elimination of overlapping services and concentration of resources on the services most needed at the current time; recognition of the strain on voluntary sector services during the pandemic and the need to support VSO providers themselves; and realistic re-assessment by VSO groups of their chances of survival in a prolonged pandemic environment and the related need to seek suitable merger/amalgamation partners to ensure the future availability of essential support services to those communities with the greatest needs.

Tom closed the Forum by thanking all participants for their attendance and their input.

An evaluation poll completed by all attendees at the end of the Forum indicated almost unanimous satisfaction with the Forum’s format and content and more detailed feedback will be sought in a forthcoming WAMGI Alert.”

The next Forum will be held on Wednesday 17 February. Discussion/presentation topics will be taken from Forum members’ suggestions and as a result of whatever issues arise from continued covid-19 restrictions. Please contact asma@sloughcvs.org.uk if you would like to speak at the next VSF regarding any current issues.