VCSE Review: Discussion paper on the challenges and solutions to better investment in and partnership with the VCSE sector

Closed 11 Nov 2015

Opened 7 Aug 2015


The Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector is crucial to the sustainable delivery of health and wellbeing. VCSE organisations are an integral part of the wider health and care system, and they operate extensively within it. Just under a quarter of England’s 171,000 voluntary and community organisations are involved in the provision of adult health and/or social care and support services.[1]  Around a third of social enterprises operate in health and social care.[2] The statutory sector spends £3.39 billion on health services provided by voluntary and community organisations.[3]

The type of health and care work that VCSE organisations do is hugely varied, reflecting their broad range of technical and professional skills and expertise. The sector is known for its diversity and flexibility – ranging from large organisations with significant income and staffing to small community groups run largely by volunteers – and recognised for the added social value and impact they bring.

As resources continue to be scarce across the health and care system, collaboration and partnership is becoming ever more critical. The Department of Health, Public Health England and NHS England (the three ‘system partners’) agree that prevention, community building, addressing the wider determinants of health, co-production and engaging those at particular risk of poor experiences and poor outcomes are all vital to the new health and care model, and that these areas of work cannot be successful without a strong and thriving VCSE sector. The system partners are committed to building on the strong partnership that already exists with the sector and together work to ensure delivery of high quality health and care interventions. This Review has been established to make recommendations on how the sector can:

  • Maximise and demonstrate its impact
  • Build sustainability and capacity
  • Promote equality and address health inequalities

The Review is being co-produced through an advisory group consisting of organisations within the statutory health and care system, VCSE sector and other funding organisations, working together in an open process and with wider public engagement.  A full list of advisory group members can be found here.

In January 2015, a period of engagement was launched through which we heard from the VCSE sector about the issues and challenges it faces and also some suggestions for change. In March 2015, we published an interim report setting out what we had heard and highlighting a number of areas for further consideration. 

How to contribute your views to this Review

We now want to gather your views about the challenges identified and options suggested in the interim report. In this document, we set out our understanding of the issues and make some suggestions for improvement and provide an opportunity for you to give us your views.  We are interested in hearing whether or not we have properly understood the issues, or if there’s anything that we have missed.  We would also like to hear about any relevant evidence or examples of good practice that you are aware of.

As this Review covers such a broad subject, there are many different areas for us to consider but not all of these will be relevant to all organisations / individuals.  Please therefore only complete the sections in this that are relevant to you and skip any that you wish to.

If you want to see or print a full text version of the discussion paper, please see here or see the resources page of the VCSE website.

[1] Clark J, Kane D, Wilding K, Wilton J (2010). UK Civil Society Almanac. London: National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

[2] Social Enterprise UK (2014). Impact report: 2013-2014. Found at:

[3] Clark J, Kane D, Wilding K, Wilton J (2010). UK Civil Society Almanac. London: National Council for Voluntary Organisations.


What happens next

The VCSE Advisory Group will analyse responses to this discussion paper between November and December 2015. We hope to publish findings in early 2016.


  • Voluntary groups
  • Charities
  • Local authorities
  • Service users


  • Patient and public voice
  • Reducing health inequalities
  • Partnerships and relationships