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Hertfordshire County Council

Overview of service

The importance of the voluntary and community sector (VCS) to Hertfordshire has been highlighted this year by the key role it has played in response to COVID-19. The VCS successfully delivered services across the county including to our most vulnerable and socially excluded residents. At the same it has shown real innovation and flexibility in responding to the challenges of working virtually during lockdown and developing new initiatives such as Community Help Hertfordshire and Covid Information Champions as well as working with mutual aid groups.

The services we commission from the VCS are all designed to support carers alongside the Service user, we also commission services which focus specifically on carers needs.


Demand and needs

The experience of Covid-19 has given us a clearer idea of the potential number of people who could benefit from the VCS. During 2020/21 the VCS deployed 5,000 new volunteers who completed 90,000 tasks (including 2,300 pharmacy deliveries). There were 140,000 calls to HertsHelp (compared to 35,000 a year previously) and 35,000 residents were supported by Citizens Advice. There were 12,000 Hospital & Community Navigator referrals and 588,387 heated meals were delivered.

In addition to these service users we know that 108,615 people identified themselves as providing unpaid care in the 2011 census. Differences in health and wellbeing are greatest in younger carers compared to their peers, but there is evidence that older carers can also experience significant negative health outcomes if not supported.


What we commission

Adult Care Services commission services with a value of £10.8m from VCS, as detailed in table 1.

Carers support includes advice, mentoring, a passport discount scheme, GP carer champions and other projects. Over 32,000 carers are registered with this service. The service also provides representation, collating carer feedback and supporting coproduction.

A free carer breaks service provides up to 18 hours of breaks by paid staff while awaiting a statutory carers assessment, the service assists 1500 carers in every client group each year. We also fund a service which can provide breaks staffed by volunteers.

For Social Prescribing we commission the HertsHelp service to provide immediate telephone advice guidance and referral, and the Hospital and Community Navigator service to provide home visits for people requiring higher level interventions. We are working closely with the new GP Link Workers in Primary Care Networks. Social prescribing has proved particularly valuable to carers, with a large percentage of calls being from family and friends. Carers often need help in defining the problem and understanding potential solutions, so we have moved beyond traditional signposting services.

Day opportunities covers a wide range of services including activity groups, lunch clubs and peer support. Services are for people whose needs are below the level of care act eligibility across older people and adults with disabilities
Developing organisations and Volunteering covers community catalyst help to new start-ups, and the countywide #teamherts volunteering platform.
User voice services assist people to express their views on services, and proposed developments.

Long term condition services support people with conditions such as head injury, stroke and dementia. Further detail on VCS support for dementia and mental health is provided in the Mental Health MPS.

Table 1: Services we commission from the voluntary and community sector

Table 1: Services we commission from the voluntary and community service sector

Key Service AreasAnnual Value (£1000)

Carers support and breaks


Social prescribing & advocacy


Day opportunities


Developing organisations & volunteering


User Voice & co-production


Long term conditions



Commissioning intentions

We will continue to support early preventative interventions that improve individuals’ health and wellbeing, delaying the need for intervention by statutory services.

Learning from Covid has shown the benefits to some people of on-line services, and a growing confidence but at the same time the need to offer face to face contact for those who prefer it and support with digital inclusion.

A new Joint Strategic Commissioning Board (JSCB) for the VCS has been established to bring together HCC, CCG, district councils and Public Health to ensure coordination in funding plans. The JSCB will develop a shared strategy for the VCS which will build on the four objectives of an agreed plan for Health Creation and the VCS:

  • Integrated access to community support and social prescribing (‘No Wrong Door’)

  • Support for unpaid/family carers

  • Volunteering

  • The robustness of joint strategic commissioning of and engagement with the sector

The joint strategy will reflect projects agreed thought Public Health Management Board and projects agreed through HCC’s inequalities funding.
Our VCS organisations played a key role in responding to the pandemic and the strategy will look forward to their equally vital contribution to the recovery process, and further. There will be significant challenges but we can build upon the areas of good practice around volunteering, partnership working and digitally-based services.

In line with NHSE requirements a VCS Alliance will be formed for Hertfordshire. This will provide a unified voice for the VCS, supported by connector posts within the VCS to gather feedback from the smaller organisations. Members of the Alliance will be nominated to represent the sector giving them authority and recognition beyond their employing organisation.  The Herts VCS Alliance will work in partnership with a similar body in West Essex to provide a single representative for the ICS Board.

Contracts for day opportunities will move to a grants based process from April 2022 with the grants process expected to be re-opened every 2-3 years.

Adult Care Services will continue to invest in VCS services which support carers and provide them with breaks.  The Hertfordshire Carers strategy runs to 2021 and a new carers strategy is being developed in co-production with carers. It sets out the needs that they feel must be met and the models of support they wish to see available. The action plan for the strategy is taken forward by the multiagency Carers Coproduction Board. The contracts for support and free breaks commenced in April 2020 and are not expected to be retendered for at least 2 years. There are however opportunities for providers to offer carer breaks to self-funders, people with direct payments and as part of contracted domiciliary care services. We anticipate continuing growth in the number of carers receiving a direct payment and providers are encouraged to explore and develop the associated market for individual, personalised support.

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