Cambridgeshire Home Energy Support Service – PLUS launches

You may be aware that Cambridgeshire ACRE, in partnership with PECT, ran a project called Cambridgeshire Home Energy Support Service (CHESS) which came to an end in 2022.  Cambridgeshire ACRE is pleased to announce that they have been awarded further funding by the Energy Saving Trust to continue this work through a new two-year project called ‘CHESS Plus’.

Their aim remains the same, to help people on low incomes, who are struggling with their energy costs. CHESS Plus will provide advice and support on reducing energy bills and maintaining a warm home. They are also able to provide financial debt relief of up to £500 to those who need it most. This time, this service is working across the districts of East Cambridgeshire, Fenland, Huntingdonshire and Cambridge City.

They are asking as many frontline workers as possible to sign up to support this project. They will provide you with an one-hour short online information session about energy advice and how to refer to the scheme and will contact you with any relevant news and information about the project.  They have tried to make the referral process as simple as possible as they appreciate you’re already busy helping and supporting families and individuals.

To sign up, please complete the short form via this link:

If you have any immediate questions, please just send me an email

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Health Inequalities Challenge Prize 2023

The ICB is running their second Health Inequalities Challenge prize in 2023.   This year’s challenge prize is aimed at voluntary organisations or charities, small or large, who would like to bid for funding to create healthier lives for those experiencing health inequalities.  The vision is for organisations to come up with ideas for projects that have a focus on delivering one or more Personalised Care approaches, for example, supporting people to self-manage their conditions, holding ‘what matters to me’ conversations, co-developing personalised care support plans, or referrals into e.g. social prescribing or health coaching teams or financial support services.

Voluntary organisations are well placed to identify groups of people in their communities who require support, and work with them to develop the types of activities and services they need.  The projects should support the population of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and make a difference to the local community by reducing systematic, unfair and avoidable differences in health and must include a personalised care approach.  Applications are open to voluntary, charitable, or social enterprise organisations servicing any population including but not limited to:-

  •       The LGBTQ+ community
  • Asylum seekers and refugees
  • People in contact with judicial system
  • Homeless people and rough sleepers
  • People from the Armed Forces Community
  • People with Serious Mental Illness
  • People with physical disabilities, learning disabilities or neurodivergent people.
  • Minority ethnic communities
  • People misusing drugs or alcohol.
  • People who are more likely to develop long term health conditions because of their social or economic circumstances.

12 applicants will be chosen as finalists by a panel of experts and community stakeholders.  Each of the 12 finalists will receive seed funding of £4,000 to support their proposed solution.  One of the 12 finalists will be chosen as winner of a £20,000 prize to launch and market their solution.

More details about the project, including some examples of the type of project which might be considered, and application form can be found on the CCF website:

The closing date for completed applications is the 1st May 2023.

Cambridgeshire VCSE Survey 2023 – How you doing?

As we move into 2023, you could be forgiven for thinking that the voluntary and community sector (VCSE) is just moving from crisis to crisis. After surviving and supporting those around us so well through the years of COVID, we now find ourselves in a cost-of-living crisis.

Many have said that while they thought they were battling on in covid, they are struggling to keep going and don’t know what the future looks like. The demands for services are higher, the costs of delivering are higher, and the expectations for services are higher than ever, yet the funding hasn’t changed. This shockwave of need in our sector has a huge impact, and we know this. However, like all things, we need to make a case and draw a realistic picture of what you are facing and how Support Cambs partners can support you.

In the past, our annual 2023 Survey of Cambridgeshire Community Groups and Charities has been a vital source of information for funders and stakeholders along with us as infrastructure organisations in painting that picture and looking at resources.

This year we are also looking at health impacts and changes to health services. So this is a great way to give your views on this.

It gives us information on the issues and barriers you’re facing and therefore allows us to plan to ensure our services fit for purpose. This is even more relevant currently with so many changes happening around us.

Therefore, we ask as many individuals from charities, not-for-profit organisations and community groups to fill out the 2023 Survey of Cambridgeshire Community Groups and Charities. So that we can see what is happening across the county and if the struggles you are currently facing are the same as last year and other organisations or if there is something we all need to be aware of coming down the road.


Fill in the survey here

Closing date 20th March – for more information please contact

Health Alliance Group Update February 2023

Members from the Health Alliance group met again on Wednesday, 8th February, online. We had a good turn-up of members from volunteer organisations, which gave a good representation of the VCSE sector.

The meeting was chaired by Julie Farrow, CEO of Hunts Forum.  Julie gave an update on the ‘Action Log’, which is a document listing almost 30 tasks the Health Alliance group has identified in previous meetings that need further investigation or action with the ICS or ICB.

The action log previously raised a question about Jargon busting. Debbie Drew, our Project Officer (Health) shared with the Alliance this

Although a lot of progress has been made so far with members offering support and involvement in attending the numerous ICS boards, Julie reiterated that as a group, we needed more individuals from the voluntary sector to engage and share information and priorities from the ground level.  We have a great opportunity now to highlight to the ICS the key issues and frustrations facing the VCSE sector and our communities.

Julie then introduced Paul Taylor, Primary Care and HR Service,  Staff Support Hub Lead.

Paul gave a presentation introducing the Staff Support Hub (SSH).  The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough SSH are one of 40 hubs set up during COVID national.  These hubs were initially set up to help individuals in Social Care & Health, including the volunteer sector, whose mental health was being affected during COVID.  Paul explained that Cambridgeshire & Peterborough came ‘late to the party’ and thus only launched their SSH services around 18 months ago.

Paul went on to give a full presentation on the impact of the SSH, which so far has helped in the reduction of sickness and health for staff from across Health & Social Care.  Whilst mental health, including stress and anxiety, are still the biggest reasons for being off sick, the team at SSH are pleased to announce that Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have the 6th lowest workforce sickness rate in the country.

The Staff Support Hub has supported the following activities in our region:

  • Access to the Working Well programme – to help individuals remain at work.
  • Support helpline (between 11 am – 7 pm) through the Lifecraft Mental Health Charity
  • Wellbeing Webinars and Forums – covering key areas such as long COVID and Menopause
  • Signpost to Psychological well-being and Counselling services

To access the video showing Paul’s full presentation to the group

Unfortunately, Paul confirmed that a decision had been made by NHS England to cease all funding for the SSH nationally from the end of March 2023.  However, as Cambridgeshire and Peterborough programme started late and thus had money left in the budget, they will be able to keep operating a full service until September 2023.

However, from 1st of April, they will need to cut back on some services, including the Helpline and will be forced to bring it in-house, and will be monitored by existing staff.  For full information about the reduced services, please refer to their website

Strategic Goals

The meeting continued with Julie updating members on the progress of one of four strategic goals, as mentioned in the VCSE strategy.

Goal 1 – Support and enable a vibrant and thriving VCSE sector to play its part

We have come a long way since the sign-off of the strategy some 10 months ago.  Although some progress feels very slow, the Health Alliance group has made some significant inroads in improving the relationship between the VCSE sector and the ICS.

The following table shows the progress we have made in achieving our short-term goals to-date.

We now have around 100 organisations actively involved within the VCSE sector. However, more work still needs to be done, and the Health Alliance group need more organisations to help further raise the profile of the VCSE sector and highlight all support we need.

Integrated Neighbourhoods update

Debbie gave an update from the integrated neighbourhoods she attends but is awaiting the priorities from others in Cambridge and Peterborough. St Neots launched their Integrated Neighbourhood on 7th but there are still several others due to be launched this year.

Representative Boards update

We continue to have a good number of Representatives feeding back regularly from attending the various ICB boards and committees.  Full details of these reports can be seen on our Health Alliance webpage each month.  Click here to read the latest reports.

Finally, Julie finished the meeting with an update to the members on the three projects funded by the ICB to help support the Health Alliance activities in developing the partnership. These include:

Tackling Inequalities

A meeting was held last week. A verbal summary was given on the main points discussed and agreed during the meeting. These include;

  • The data project between CAB and Healthwatch is still being compiled and scheduled to be completed by the end of March 2023.
  • The project group decided to focus on Wisbech and the Oxmoor Estate. Key focus areas identified included ‘family prevention’ and ways to engage with the local community to understand the key issues they are facing at ground level and what support they need.

Partnership Development

This project group hasn’t met yet, but high on their agenda they will be looking at the following issues;

  • Look at ways for Hunts Forum to step back from having a key role in the running of the Health Alliance, potentially recruiting a new ‘lead’ for the group from the VCSE sector.
  • Encouraging new members into the Health Alliance from across the VCSE sector
  • Set up a training programme to offer confidence skills and encourage more members to become Representatives.

Securing Funding and External Investment

This group met last week, and a verbal summary was given on the main points. These included;

  • CCVS & Hunts Forum have expanded the State of the Sector survey to include PCVS and gather data on how our VCSE sector has survived COVID; this baseline data will help the Health Alliance to target areas of work and bring VCSE groups closer together.
  • Fundraising Strategy  – Julie to contact two consultancies to write a proposal on how the VCSE sector could work collaboratively to write bid applications for funding or commissioning work.

The next meeting will be on 8th March and will be a face-to-face meeting held in Cambourne between 2 pm – 4 pm. If you would like an invite, please email

VCS Rep Report : ICS Supply, Information and Planning Group (sub-group of Local People Board)

Meeting attended: Supply, Information and Planning Group

VCS Representatives: Sharon Allen, Arthur Rank Hospice Charity

Date of meeting:  23/01/2023

Summary of agenda items / key themes discussed:

Review action plan/KPIs

Legacy Nursing

Joint recruitment


Accommodation update

Return to practice/legacy nursing

The following are proposed from the Local People Board as the objectives for the R&R group to focus on:

  1. C&P ICS to have a dedicated OSCE (objective structured clinical examination), centre for preparation and support (this is related to recruitment of international nurses) – it is not going to happen because the Nursing and Midwifery Council does not consider it necessary to establish a further centre. The group has clarified that what is required is the availability of training, education and assessment for these colleagues.
  2. Reduce vacancy rate for HCSW (healthcare support workers) across the ICS
  3. Develop one clear, supportive and affordable accommodation process for IRNs (international registered nurses) within C&P
  4. Determine professions / areas of greatest clinical risk (from workforce pressures) and focus retention efforts there
  5. Develop career pathways and related marketing campaigns for target audiences
  6. Develop an ethical recruitment policy
  7. Alleviate cost of living crisis

As you can see, it is very NHS/clinically focused

The system has received funding from Health Education England to set up the Legacy Nurse programme. Colleagues have looked at BLMK (Bedford, Milton Keynes and Luton) and Norfolk & Waveney ICS’ to see what they’re doing. These are experienced colleagues who may be considering or have retired or be returning from maternity leave or long term ill health who no longer wish to or are able to work in direct service provision, but have a wealth of skills and experience to support less experienced colleagues through for example, training, mentoring etc. The system is looking for host organisations for these practitioners. CPFT already has this role so anyone interested could talk to Rachel King there.

Two joint recruitment fairs for employers looking for healthcare support workers have been organised. ARHC commented on the promotional material to make it more inclusive of voluntary sector and local authority. We are taking part in these. A recruitment bus is planned for March.

A further new project focused on utilising the skills of reservists has been set up with Hayley Stock employed as the ICB lead. This is another national initiative and our system is partnering with Norfolk and Waveney. The focus for our system is primary care working through Primary Care Networks. The project is also looking to see if there are reservists with Occupational Health experience to help with capacity in this area.

The accommodation project has lots of activity going on and a workshop taking place in February (we are not able to attend this so if another voluntary sector colleague wishes to represent our sector please let me know and I can send details). This project started due to concerns about international nurse recruits being unable to afford accommodation in Cambridge, it has now broadened to recognise that many working in care and health struggle with affordable accommodation. They are considering conducting a housing needs survey.

A further new post focusing on digital inclusion targeting 16 – 19 year olds and linked to apprenticeships will be starting in March.

Implications for the VCS

Any colleagues wanting to be involved in future recruitment fairs please get in touch (these are specifically for health and care support workers)


None from the meeting

Date, time and venue of next meeting and name of the representative who will be attending

Monday 20th February 2023 – 13.30 – MS Teams. Sharon attending

VCS Rep Report : ICS Local People Board 13 Jan 2023

Meeting attended: Local People Board

VCS Representatives: Sharon Allen

Date of meeting: 13/01/2023

Summary of agenda items / key themes discussed:

Board Assurance Framework (BAF)

Recommendations from the Leadership and Culture Exercise

Priority 3 – Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion

BAF will be updated and go through committee cycle (this LPB meeting was rescheduled from December so we are out of sync, ICB met the morning that LPB was in the afternoon). A new risk has been added focused on recruitment and retention (R&R) . It was agreed to recommend to the board that this risk should be re-rated to red due to the pressures across the whole system.

In her introductory remarks, the chair acknowledged that much of the focus of the Board is still very NHS. She plans to speak with Local Authority colleagues and with me as the voluntary sector rep, we have a date set for an initial conversation.

There was an update on R&R: there is a sub-group focusing specifically on R&R (see separate update from this group which I also attend). Much of this is also NHS focused, eg looking at support for training for international recruits, concerns about accommodation provision for international recruits (although the cost of living crisis has meant this is now seen as a wider workforce issue). There is a new programme being funded on Legacy practitioner roles, experienced colleagues who may no longer wish to work in service providing roles but have lots of experience to support less experienced colleagues. Another new project is making use of Reservists, There is a further joint recruitment fair aimed at recruiting Healthcare Support Workers and ongoing discussion about data collection and analysis,

Oonagh Monkhouse is Director or Workforce at Royal Papworth Hospital and leads the system EDI group (Gemma Manning, Director of People and Operations at Arthur Rank Hospice Charity represents our sector on this group). The groups activity thus far has focused on anti-racism because racism is the biggest issue of concern identified from the NHS staff survey. The issue of data and lack of consistently available data across the system was raised again (the NHS has the Workforce Race Equality Standard – WRES, Workforce Disability Equality Standard – WDES and it’s staff survey) the Local Authority and VCSE do not have anything comparable (although I shared that Skills for Care and Local Government Association have been working to develop and social care workforce race equality standard, I am meeting with colleagues from Skills for Care to find out what the latest position on this is and whether this might a tool the voluntary sector can also use as we found the WRES not transferrable)

The East of England NHS has developed an anti racism strategy that our system has signed up to. The three priorities are: leadership and management, talent and career progression and tackling racist abuse toward colleagues from patients and the public.

North West Anglia Foundation Trust is piloting a Fair Recruitment Practice approach which will set minimum standards, this is in early days and we will receive a fuller report in due course.

A proposal to sponsor a new programme, Above Difference, which will support the development of a cultural intelligence framework to support leaders and staff to become more culturally aware through the use of personal analysis andeconomic modelling was approved. It was explicitly stated that this is aimed at leaders from across the whole system and applications from voluntary sector organisations will be welcomed.

We had an update from the Leadership & culture strategic session at the previous Local People Board. Anita Pisani who chairs the Leadership and OD sub-group reported back on a number of programmes and plans for programmes in the coming year. Anita is going to speak with me about opportunities for our sector to participate.

Implications for the VCS

How can the data project that Healthwatch and CAB have undertaken contribute to this wider EDI work?

Sorry for being a broken record on this – how do we ensure that voluntary sector workforce data and therefore recruitment and retention challenges are part of the system picture?

Ensure that recruitment and retention issues are reported back so that our issues and any solutions we have identified are part of the system response.

We should try and ensure we have good representation on the Above Difference programme once this is launched.


No specific actions from this meeting.

Date, time and venue of next meeting and name of the representative who will be attending

Friday 24th  February,  13.30  (via Teams), Sharon will be attending

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