The Social Value Act: A great opportunity for the voluntary sector

By Grant Hayward, Director of Collaborent and specialist in cross sector collaboration


The Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 requires, by law, those who commission public services to consider how they can also secure wider social, economic and environmental benefits. It’s been around for a while now but has been criticised for not having real “teeth”. Recently though, it’s really gaining traction with 75% of local authorities now aware and taking action.

I was overwhelmed to see and hear about the impressive progress being made by pioneers in this field whilst attending the Social Value Summit in London on 7th February. Award winning examples of the ways the Social Value Act is being used to bring organisations together across sectors to address social needs, plug gaps in funding and create real business opportunities for the private sector. And that’s what I am all about!

It was also encouraging to hear Rob Wilson, Minister for Civil Society, announce at the Summit another review of the Social Value Act. This, coupled with his recent announcement to help small charities win contracts is all good news to the voluntary sector. But these opportunities won’t just be served up on a plate. It’s the shrewd organisations in the voluntary sector that are grasping the chance to understand and leverage these opportunities to position themselves in prime position to benefit.

The opportunities will vary greatly, depending upon your organisation, your activities and services. But here are just a couple of examples: You might be commissioned to deliver services and could enhance your chances of winning contracts by building and demonstrating the Social Value you add over and above the services you provide. Or, you could use the Social Value Act to make you more attractive to businesses who are either providing services to the public sector directly, or have someone doing so within their supply chain. Most don’t even know it yet, but they will increasingly be seeking to demonstrate the ways in which they are adding Social Value in some way.

So, what Social Value do you add and how can you use it to gain competitive advantage and make your charity more attractive?

Two interesting numbers…

By Nick Phillips, group chief executive, Community Impact Bucks

Recently I’ve seen two interesting numbers relating to Buckinghamshire that have really made me think about our county; 43 and 11.  Forty-three is from the national homelessness figures and 11 from the State of Rural Services Survey.

Community Impact Bucks has a mission to improve the lives of the people of Bucks through working with charities and communities. We review the national data about rural living and guide and support community groups on ways to develop sustainable projects for a better life. (Training, events, community transport projects, good neighbours schemes, rural housing etc).

Buckinghamshire ranks as the 3rd most affluent county in the UK outside London. So it was a surprise to see the National Rough Sleeping Data record that on one night chosen at random for a survey, we had 43 individuals sleeping rough on our street in one snapshot count. While writing this I am looking at the rain pelting down and thinking of those people possibly huddling in doorways in our market towns of High Wycombe, Chesham, Aylesbury, Buckingham…

I was recently speaking to the people who run vital charities which are there to give hope and a lifeline to local homeless people.  They told me that this figure of 43 is an under count.  In reality, those few people counted are the very tip of an iceberg where many more are sleeping on sofas at friend’s houses or families who are having to stay with friends or relatives to stay off the street. When I expressed shock at the number of rough sleepers in Bucks and the comparative wealth of the county I was told that it can be harder to get services in counties where the deprivation is so concentrated. There are more people living rough in High Wycombe than Newcastle! The homeless charities then told me that things are getting worse with rough sleeping in Bucks rising by over 30%, caused by a combination of rent prices, fewer landlords accepting people on benefits and changes in benefit payments; all making it harder for people to actually pay the rents.

The second number of interest was the Rural Services Report (Rural England) that identified the average house price in Bucks being 11 times greater than the average salary. The average house price in Beaconsfield is £980,000 according to some surveys from 2015.

Both these numbers reflect real life situations and they feel incongruous and unsustainable.

Buckinghamshire is such a beautiful rural county and in some cases well-served by services but most of us just don’t see the real disparity that the fantastic organisations like Wycombe Homeless Connection and Aylesbury Homeless Action deal with every day.

Younger trustees: lessons from students’ unions

By Richard Brooks, Vice President (Union Development) at the National Union of Students and Chair of NUS Charitable Services Limited.


It was a real pleasure to present recently at the Community Impact Bucks Trustee Conference. I spoke about the benefits of having younger trustees on boards. I argued it increases both the effectiveness of the charity and the sustainability of the sector.

I wanted to share learnings from students’ unions (SUs) – student-led charities with a major difference: students constitute the majority on the trustee board. This makes us a slight anomaly within the charity sector. Where the average charity trustee is aged 59, a few hundred students’ unions are bucking the trend – between ourselves handing the reins to an estimated 1,500 16-34 year olds each year.

As Vice President of NUS my job is to lead the consultancy our staff deliver to students’ union trustee boards. We are the experts in how SU trustee boards work, including how they have responded to challenges and opportunities brought by younger trustees.

To quote the Cass Centre for Charity Effectiveness (2014): “On paper, the SU operating model – effectively student and staff teams with a board comprised of largely inexperienced members who are also the key operating officers – is fundamentally flawed and should not work. Yet it does. Arguably better than other charities which have operating officers on their boards.”

Here are my four key reflections for the wider sector:

  1. Most students’ unions only became charities within the last 10 years. Even though the model isn’t perfect for us, we have benefitted enormously from standardising governance arrangements. This has allowed talent, knowledge and good practice to percolate into students’ unions from the wider sector, as well ensuring good career progression for our people. One particular strength of the charity model is it provides for a mixed board of students and lay trustees. This allows us to balance not just skills gaps by co-opting external experts, as is common, but also to form our boards in response to our key challenges. For example, we cannot avoid having high turnover rates – by design SUs have a different board composition every academic year – but this challenge is offset by recruiting lay trustees with longer terms and the duty to provide continuity.
  1. Younger trustees will come and go. Rapid turnover must not be feared. Our experience is that their ideas, energy and lack of pretentions will more than make up for any disruption the board might face. In any case it doesn’t require superpowers for a board to manage (and even embrace) a higher rate of change, a decent level of self-awareness and an appetite for disruptive thinking is more than enough.
  1. Younger boards need to be underpinned by constant induction and development activity. So by necessity students’ unions have developed a rolling programme of development for their trustees. But all trustees benefit from common activities such as team-building, introspection, audits, mentoring, coaching, independent reviews, strategic planning, mediation, conflict resolution, and peer support. Like any charities, cash is tight so activities have to be arranged on a shoestring budget but the key investment is in trustees making time for these activities in and out of meetings.
  1. Younger trustees are inexperienced and need support. However, this will not be the burden you think it is. This is an opportunity for trustees to act smarter, ask better questions of their organisation, and ditch lazy habits. Students’ unions have seen it can be a sharp wake-up call for any board to realise what shared responsibility means – that all trustees need have the right information to make decisions. Reams of raw data and no analysis are useless. This is brought sharply into focus in the context of an 18 year-old presented with intricate financial issues. Their inexperience does not release them from legal responsibility but instead demands that complex issues are broken down and presented free from jargon and obfuscation. The important point is every board we’ve seen which takes these issues of clarity and accessibility seriously will be rewarded with a step-change in performance. Asking smarter questions and ensuring everyone understands the answers inevitably helps organisations make the best use of resource, makes meetings more efficient and ensures malpractice is picked up early.

Finally, if you’re looking for great younger trustees to join your organisation the student movement is well endowed with them. We work with various sector organisations including Trustees Unlimited and TrusteeWorks.


Charity Accounting – a chore or a tool?

By Paul Hedley, head of resources, Community Impact Bucks


For all of us in the charitable sector, the question of money is never far from the front of our minds.  How do we deliver more with less?  Where can I raise the money to do this project, or to help that group?  What happens if my existing funding is reduced or disappears?  Such drivers, allied to the clear desire in the sector to concentrate on delivery, can easily have the effect of pushing the job of maintaining good accounts to the back of the queue.

Such a situation has two potential side effects, both of which are potentially serious for any organisation, whether large or small.  Firstly, potential funders are increasingly requiring detailed financial information to support bids: not only project based budgets, but detailed financial records of the organisation more generally.  Similarly, the reporting requirements of funded projects are becoming more stringent as the available money is squeezed, and funders have to justify their decisions to their own stakeholders.  Never has it been more important both to keep good financial records, and to use them pro-actively.

Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, good decision-making requires understanding of available resources: in short, people and funds.  Without that understanding, neither Trustees nor Management can set sensible goals, assess progress or commit to significant decisions.  Or, if they do act without that understanding, the chances of making good decisions are significantly reduced, and that affects both the organisation and its beneficiaries.

How many third-sector organisations could benefit from making a switch of mindset in this regard?  How would it look if accounting was seen not as drudgery that we could all do without, but as a positive tool for good decision-making?

Work until you drop – and you may not actually drop quite so soon!

By Nick Phillips, group chief executive, Community Impact Bucks

Last week there was a fair bit of media coverage about England’s chief medical officer calling on people aged between 50 and 70 to keep working to stay healthy.

In a report on the health of the so-called baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, Prof Dame Sally Davies said the physical and mental health benefits of being employed or volunteering “should not be underestimated”.

She said working helps people feel fulfilled and less isolated.

“Staying in work, volunteering or joining a community group can make sure people stay physically and mentally active for longer.

“The health benefits of this should not be underestimated.”

The report even says that volunteering can be better for you than exercise.

Earlier this week I was talking to the Chamber of Commerce in Chesham (sorry for running over my allotted time again, by the way!) about volunteering and the benefits to business about having a workforce engaged in volunteering. Better health, better morale and evidence says better profits – but even once retired it seems that volunteering is good for you.

It is really easy to find out what is on offer go to

It’s got to beat working!

Musings on an older population…

By Nick Phillips, group chief executive, Community Impact Bucks

smiling older women

Clive James, the Australian journalist and writer (and many other things), once stated that ‘all good poets are frail and that to be a good poet one must be frail’. (If not those words exactly then close to it.) I thought about this for some time and challenged the statement in my mind with Wordsworth, who by all accounts must have been pretty nifty under foot to go dashing across the Lake District, and the war poets like Brooke, Owen and many others who were far from physical frailty when putting pen to paper. But perhaps Clive James was right in a way. Perhaps he was simply referring to the manifestation of age and experience as frailty.

We know that in Bucks we are looking at having a population of 115,000 over 65-year-olds and 15,000 over 85-year-olds in the next ten years. With an ageing population comes many challenges.  According to Dementia UK this will mean at least 1 in 14 having to live with Alzheimer’s. Whenever these statistics are spoken of at a national or local level it seems in the context of an economically burdensome group of people who are draining the resources of the population.  But are we looking at this situation the right way?  Are we actually emerging into a world of wisdom? Is this a great opportunity for us to listen, to take time to share in the lessons learned over the decades? Are we in Buckinghamshire lucky enough to have a “wisening”, rather than ageing, population? (Or at least a pool of the greatest poets?)

As we plan for the next ten or twenty years, I think there is something in the way we look at, and respond to, the changes in demographics. Older people may not want to continue with paid work in their retirement but many volunteer their time and skills and, after 16-24-year-olds, our over 65’s are the greatest source of volunteering in Bucks. We may all learn to rely on the ageing population more than we think.

Rural communities are being left isolated because councils have been forced to reduce bus services, new figures reveal – but is this an opportunity for closer more resilient communities?

By Nick Phillips, group chief executive, Community Impact Bucks


Local authorities have been forced to reduce bus services by more than 12% in the last year alone, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

This has left thousands of rural people isolated, says the LGA, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales.

In the past financial year, the distance travelled by council-supported bus services outside London has dropped from 165 to 144 million miles – a fall of 12.3%.

The picture over the past decade is similarly bleak.

Council-supported bus services in rural areas have reduced by 40% – by 71 million bus miles from 178 million miles to107 million miles.

Councils have seen a 40% reduction in their core funding in the previous Parliament and are continuing to experience funding pressures.

I am not a ‘glass half empty’ person but when I see cuts in services that support rural communities it is easy to feel that the rural communities are getting a rum deal. Buses aren’t just about a trip to the shops for some elderly people, they also are about getting to a doctor’s or hospital appointment as with a ‘home to health’ service.

But, and there is a but, there may be a slither of a silver lining. I have seen that community car schemes have brought generations together in communities where isolation is a big issue. These haddenham-community-vehicleschemes, however good, will never replace a 1950’s red bus scheme but there are advantages. They offer a flexible approach to meet a community-driven need. We have helped set up community transport schemes in all shapes and sizes from a simple telephone cascade system for anyone offering or wanting a lift, to the ‘home to health’ model. The result is often that those who are driving, usually one person to a car, can give a lift to elderly people they would normally not have known. There are examples of small villages becoming much closer as a result.

So whilst the loss of a bus service is never a good thing for those that have come to rely on it there may be the chance of stronger village communities. If you would like to find out more about community transport schemes and the support Community Impact Bucks can provide to help with their set up, please give Debi Game in our projects team a call on 0300 111 1250.

A day in the life of a carer – In national carer’s week our Guest Blog is written by Martin Rikki Rutter-DaCosta, full time unpaid family carer.

Martin and other family carers are supported by the brilliant local charity Carers Bucks. We would like to celebrate all that they do to make a better life for the estimated 1 in 10 adults of Buckinghamshire who are Carers (52,000 people!)

When my Mother had a fall and was admitted to hospital my life changed. I stopped work and found myself caring full time for my Father, and also for my mother when she was able to return home. He has Lewy Bodies: a progressive form of dementia which affects both memory and mobility. Whilst my Mother has steadily improved and is now more or less back to the good health she enjoyed before her fall, my Father has steadily deteriorated. He is now in the seventh stage of his dementia and although not in pain he requires 24hr care.

I suppose my day usually starts at 6.30a.m. when I try to wake my Father to administer his medication and eye-drops. He is quite often very difficult to rouse, and we were finding that if we left administering the meds to his carers they spent all their time trying to get him to take them, leaving them no time to wash and dress him.

The carers come at 7a.m. There are always two of them now as my Father is unable to lift himself, or roll on the bed. They wash and dress him while I check with my Mother what is in the diary for the day and start preparing my Father’s breakfast. Once the carers have settled him in his armchair I start by giving him the next lot of medication, and then try to feed him his breakfast. He always has a bit of fruit in the morning, and usually toast or porridge, but sometimes he asks for something different like bacon and egg, or kippers, and we try to have these available so that he gets what he wants. Today he asked for fish and chips so I cooked two fish-fingers and some oven chips. Feeding can often take up to an hour as my Father’s mouth doesn’t always obey his brain, and he has a tendency to chew his food much much longer than is normal.

After breakfast he usually has a snooze which allows me time to eat my own breakfast and do a few household chores. There is washing to be done several days each week, particularly if my Father has had an accident in the night and pulled off his convene. It then gets hung in the conservatory to dry before being folded and put in the airing cupboard.

About mid-morning today my Father woke saying he needed to go to the toilet. This is quite a tricky operation: sometimes he will be able to stand to his “Sara-steady” frame so I can get his trousers and pants down before he sits on the commode but today he didn’t have the strength so I had to use the hoist. I transferred him into a wheel chair, and then used the hoist again in the bedroom to get him onto the bed. Once there I was able to get his trousers and pants down and change the sling for one suitable for use on the toilet before transferring him to the commode. All he managed was to pass a bit of wind, and then the whole process had to be reversed to get him back to his armchair in the living room.

Today we had a sitter come at 11a.m. to look after him while I took my Mother to a church group. I go in to Oxfam once a week as a volunteer to do their accounts, and I also popped in to my own home to feed my dogs and give them their medications. I have to remain within Chesham in case he needs the toilet as the sitters can’t manage him on their own so they call me on my mobile and I rush back. Fortunately, today wasn’t one of those days. Three days a week I take my Father to a day centre which gives me a couple of hours to myself and to do the shopping.


1.45p.m. and I was back at my parent’s house ready for the sitter to go home. She had read to him and fed my Father his lunch which is delivered by the excellent Appetito meals-on-wheels service. Once she had gone I tried to lift him in his chair – he tends to slide down over an hour or so but can’t get back up again. The change in position helped for a while but then his back started hurting so I took him through to his bed (hoist – wheelchair – hoist) where he had a siesta. That gave me time to check my emails and make some phone calls. We have requested a Continuing Healthcare assessment, but the CCG have lost the paperwork that the nurse sent them three months ago and so there have been numerous phone calls to unhelpful bureaucrats who seem convinced that it’s the person with dementia who should be sorting it out, not them.

My Mother got home from her meeting quite tired so she too went for a rest, but then was off out again for a falls prevention exercise class in the late afternoon so I was left supervising my Father. On days when she’s not out she will sit with him while I work in the garden. My parents have a large garden, and they were both keen gardeners, so I try to keep it looking beautiful and also productive. My Mother loves to walk round looking at the flowers, and most days I take my Father out in his powered wheel chair so he can inspect the potatoes and fruit trees which were his pride and joy. I spent several months over the winter laying a circular path so that I can take him all round the garden, and have built a ramp to get down from the back door to the patio.


At 5p.m. my sister dropped in on her way home from work. This allowed me an hour to nip home and see my partner who had cooked me some supper. Once back at my parent’s house I sat with my Father while my Mother had her tea, and then at 7.30p.m. the evening carers arrived to wash and change him ready for bed.

I watched an hour of T.V. with my Mother before she went to bed, but whilst I have been writing this I have been called through to my Father four times. He often gets hallucinations, and needs calming down. I can now hear him gently snoring so will hopefully get a good night’s sleep, but we have a baby monitor and he sometimes calls me several times in the middle of the night. Often this will be to ask the time, for a drink of water, or because he has thrown off his duvet and is cold; but sometimes he will be calling for his brother or sister, and has obviously been dreaming about his childhood.

So that’s my day. I love both my parents very much and whilst caring for them has taken over my life, I want to do this for them. After all, they cared for me!



For information and support for carers: please refer to Carers Bucks or call their helpline: 0300 777 2722

And you thought you were having a hard time!

By Hazel Finney, Volunteering Adviser, Community Impact Bucks
Contact Hazel via

Modern life can be difficult, can’t it? So much technology around to automate everyday tasks, but when it comes down to getting good old-fashioned customer service, that’s when things can start to fall apart… hanging on the phone for hours trying to get a problem fixed that was caused by your ISP or energy provider sound familiar?

But imagine if you were coping with a disability (either mental or physical), and couldn’t even find a volunteering role suited to your needs, let alone a job… that’s something to really get frustrated about. According to NCVO*, “only 38% of people with a disability or long-term limiting illness participate in formal volunteering, compared to 46% with no disability. With so many more disabled people out of employment as well, one might expect the number of disabled volunteers to be significantly higher. But, unlike in employment, the Equality Act does not apply to volunteers. Disabled volunteers have no formal protection under the law. Similarly, there is no permanent equivalent to the Access to Work fund for volunteers.”

Disability Volunteer Charter – let’s make ourselves accountable

In December 2014, Community Impact Bucks played a pivotal role promoting and supporting the national launch of the pioneering Disability Volunteer Charter developed by the Disability Action Alliance (DAA), and the closing notes were delivered by Diane Rutter, our Services Director. The launch was hosted by Buckinghamshire Disability Service (BuDS) and the Bucks Legacy Board. The Charter’s vision is for a society in which the contribution of disabled people as volunteers is valued and volunteering opportunities are widely available on an equal and accessible basis; its aim is to increase the number, value and accessibility of opportunities for disabled people to volunteer their time, skills and experience.

This all sounds great on paper, but a little over 12 months since the launch, there are only around 100 not-for-profit organisations nationwide which have signed up to the Charter… this is extremely disappointing given the thousands and thousands of volunteer-involving groups in Britain. And the number of Buckinghamshire-based organisations that have pledged is sadly just too embarrassing to mention.

Accommodating volunteers with disabilities – Lindsey and Charles’ stories

At Community Impact Bucks, we involve several volunteers with a disability, having structured the opportunities to suit their need and abilities. As with all our volunteers, they have a named point of contact, are provided with support as necessary, and reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses; we also encourage all organisations involving volunteers to take these steps. Regular reviews are carried out with all our volunteers to support them in their role and make any necessary adjustments, and we frequently provide references on request. Read how Lindsey Chamier volunteers for us from home.

And here’s another great story from Charles Harrison, a customer service volunteer with High Wycombe Shopmobility

Charles 1

Charles had a brain haemorrhage in 1993, followed by 2 strokes, which left him with a weakness on his right hand side, epilepsy, and very poor short term memory. Manager, Claire McMackin, says that they have made various adjustments to enable Charles to volunteer:

“Charles’ disability is not visible to most people, only when you talk with him or spend time with him are you perhaps aware of his condition and his vulnerability. We have to continually remind him of certain tasks as his short term memory is very poor, he is unable to cope with certain situations within the shop, so it is agreed that he just walks away. He is very open about his conditions, and most of our customers are aware of them. He has been with us for 13 years and has worked 2300 hours for us. He is a very valued member of our team and is very popular with the team and customers.”

When I asked him how his volunteering experience makes him feel, this is what Charles had to say:
“It makes me feel good, it enables me to help less fortunate or less able-bodied people get out and about. I enjoy the socialisation and being part of a team. I feel extremely valued, and there are two mornings of the week that I look forward to, and no-one at Shopmobility takes advantage of me.”

Make your pledge today – stand up and be counted
That last sentence speaks for itself – so go on, disregard the irritations and inconveniences of 21st century life, and set some time aside in the next week to think about making your pledge to the Disability Volunteer Charter – and then go and sign up – let’s rally as a county and help boost the number of organisations that have pledged nationwide to 500 by December 2017.

I’d love to hear from you when you have – please contact me with your stories – especially if you’re already involving volunteers with disabilities in your organisation:

Some extra motivation and support can go a long way
Need further inspiration for your pledges? Disability Action Alliance has produced a handy publication showing how 3 not-for-profits have embraced their pledge commitments, and the positive impact that this has had.

Need further help and advice about involving volunteers with disabilities in your organisation? Please contact us on or 0300 11 11250

*Or read this great article from NCVOHarnessing Disabled People’s Ability to Volunteer.

The Road Ahead for the Voluntary Sector


If I say it looks rocky that will not be a surprise. I have read the latest report from NCVO about the future of the voluntary sector (‘The Road Ahead’ NCVO Jan 2016) and it appears to be more boulder than rock. I will summarise the bare bones here, but also comment on some of the emerging “alternative roads” (that is the trouble with metaphor!).

The NCVO report investigates the political, economic, social and technological challenges ahead. The political view is that, with the strength of the Conservative majority and the suggested lack of unity within the current opposition, reform will go ahead. The social reforms will have a significant impact on the voluntary sector, particularly around Work and Pensions, Localism, Welfare Cap and  the “shrinking state”.

The report quotes Lord Porter, Chair of the Local Government Association:

“Even if councils stopped filling potholes, maintaining parks, closed all children’s centres, libraries, museums, leisure centres and turned off every street light they will not have saved enough money to plug the financial black hole they face by 2020.”

The knock-on effect for charities is likely to be great, and preventative charities will be vulnerable to cuts and closure – with a smaller number of large contracts issued coupled with an expectation of reduced costs. A key to success will be the ability to articulate cost benefit analysis.  The report recognises that with the reducing provision of the state the voluntary sector usually represents the only alternative and operates “on a shoe string”! This I read as providing good value to society- particularly around youth support and support for elderly and isolated people.

“One of the most significant changes was the lowering of the welfare cap” – NCVO go on to report that low income households are expected to be much worse off by 2019. “By 2019 the poorest 20% will see a real-terms reduction in their net income of around 7% compared to 2015.” Buckinghamshire is hardly the most deprived county in the UK, however reports show that poverty in a wealthy area can have a great impact on the individual as the differential is much more obvious, costs are higher and services are not directed towards the poorest.

If we look at the economic reports for Bucks we see a very affluent county and the wider economy seems to be healthier than ever.  Yet the economic recovery has not filtered down to charities. The report points to smaller charities with under £1m turnover suffering disproportionally. As I predicted in the Sector Report in 2015 the drive for donations is being led by some vigorous fund raising techniques employed by the larger charities to the detriment of smaller local charities. Most charities in Bucks have a turnover of less than £25,000.

That all seems pretty bleak – so what of the alternative road? The report suggests alternative funding is available from social investment models and the launch of the Access Foundation – although these funds are mainly accessed by larger charities. Crowdfunding is mentioned and smaller charities have been able to take advantage of many crowdfunding opportunities, with donations growing by 77% to £2m, whilst community shares grew to £34m.

The report did not look at the part played by commercial sponsorship of charities and, although this aspect of funding traditionally has been low in comparison to other funding, it may represent a valuable stream of income.

So the road ahead will be rocky. Our own research at Community Impact Bucks shows us that the challenges for us in supporting the sector along that road lie in helping charities network together and seeking shared resources (78% of charities are seeking opportunities to share resources); in working with our expert mentors in developing sustainable business plans (56% wanting training on alternative income generation) and offering training and advice surgeries in fund raising, business planning and marketing.

Rocky road or not we need to find a way through to where most of our voluntary groups are still supplying a vital service to society – as the alternative, failure, is unthinkable for the most vulnerable in society.