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Hopes for the next Senedd term – WCVA

May 2nd 2021

‘The next Welsh Government must embrace and harness community spirit’ says David Cook of Wales Council for Voluntary Action

Image from Bob-Dmyt on Pixabay

The Coronavirus pandemic led to an upsurge in community spirit across Wales, in which volunteers were central. They delivered shopping and prescriptions, helped people understand how to engage digitally as services moved online and assisted people to attend their vaccination appointments. Over 18,000 signed up to Volunteering Wales to seek volunteering opportunities, while new, informal community groups sprang up almost overnight. We have seen how this community spirit is a force for positive change. Its momentum must not be lost. Rather, it must be embraced and harnessed to help Wales combat the long-term challenges it faces as we rebuild from the pandemic. This should be the key task for whoever is in power during the next Senedd term.

We should not be seeking to simply rebuild what we had before. The pandemic has caused too much damage – loss of jobs, more poverty, closures of services – to be rectified simply by reverting to old ways of working. Rather, the next Welsh Government must usher in a new era of genuine partnership between it, local authorities, the private sector and the voluntary sector. This can help combat the economic upheaval COVID-19 has caused, as well as the challenges of the climate and biodiversity crisis, increasing mental health problems, and structural inequalities such as those that led to the pandemic disproportionately affecting minority communities. If Coronavirus was the catalyst for a new era of community spirit, partnership working can nurture the flame and prevent it going out. All partners must be equal, and work together effectively. If we do that, we can all work with communities to ensure Wales emerges from the COVID era stronger than before.

Our 2021 Voluntary Sector Manifesto highlights how partnership could benefit communities across the country. Partners could work together to:

  • Invest in the volunteering infrastructure so it is more accessible to a more diverse range of people and can ensure volunteering continues to be well-managed, agile and safe.
  • Invest in youth volunteering, focusing on issues such as climate change, mental health and community cohesion.
  • Develop a community wealth programme to support voluntary groups in communities which need it the most.
  • Create a Community Empowerment Act to help groups with the process of Community Asset Transfer and improve co-production between citizens, service users, unpaid carers and public sector bodies.
  • Ensure unpaid carers’ voices are heard in discussions around the future of health and social care.
  • Mainstream social prescribing and loneliness prevention into the work of public bodies.
  • Review the effectiveness of rules supporting social value in commissioning and procurement.
  • Engage people living in poverty in policy-making.
  • Support a Shared Prosperity Fund which provides an opportunity for communities to help drive change in job creation and community development.
  • Expand support for the climate and conservation activity that takes place at a local level.
  • Develop milestones for Wellbeing of Future Generations Act so we can see where and how Wales is progressing.

At a recent hustings event, Welsh Conservatives, Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru touched on some of these areas, showing welcome positivity about the sector, its role in the recovery and the work it can do to support vulnerable people, assist with lifelong learning and combat climate change. These are all areas in which community spirit, harnessed effectively and with the support of the voluntary sector and other partners, can make a huge difference, helping create a better Wales for everyone.

The sector is ready to play its part. We look forward to working closely with the next Welsh Government.

David Cook, Policy Officer, Wales Council for Voluntary Action

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