The Leader of Hampshire County Council has met with senior members of the Diocese of Winchester to discuss closer working to help families in need and the elderly.
The meeting was to explore further ways that the Church, as one of the largest voluntary organisations in the county, could assist in the work to ensure people needing help have improved and earlier access to the right kind of support that can avoid them reaching crisis points demanding more costly public services.
The Council is increasingly dependent on its work with the voluntary and community sector as it faces £30million increased costs each year due to inflation and the increasing demand for adult and children’s social care. At the same time, Government general grant has been cut by 51 per cent since 2008 (the equivalent of a further £25million per year) and the Council must find savings of £100 million by 2017, on top of the £240million it has made so far.
With thousands of volunteer members, the church is already helping the vulnerable in local communities through a number of projects and it’s hoped there is potential to expand these with the County Council’s backing.
Councillor Roy Perry, Leader of Hampshire County Council, said: “One of my proudest achievements so far as a Hampshire councillor was helping establish the Hampshire Interfaith Network and becoming its first co-chairman. I want to ensure the County Council’s links with all of our faith colleagues are strengthened further for the benefit of Hampshire residents.”
Cllr Perry hosted The Bishop of Basingstoke, The Right Rev. David Williams;The Bishop of Southampton, The Right Rev. Jonathan Frost; The Reverend Canon Dr Roland Riem, Vice-Dean and Canon Chancellor of Winchester Cathedral; and The Reverend Canon Nick Fennemore, Head of Chaplaincy and Bereavement Services, Portsmouth Hospitals.
The clergy heard how a church supported initiative ‘ARK’, in Eastleigh, is playing a vital crisis support role for vulnerable families across parts of the borough. Through this work the ARK volunteers have helped to support the council’s work with ‘Troubled Families’, providing a range of services including befriending, counselling, practical support and advice and de-cluttering.
Cllr Perry explained that the ‘ARK’ role in local communities is increasingly important and provides the opportunity for more organised and more consistent ‘step-down’ and ‘step-up’ arrangements between public sector organisations and the voluntary sector. In turn, this is likely to mean that early help interventions will have a longer lasting impact meaning families will be better able to live fulfilling and largely independent lives.
Cllr Perry added: “I am very interested in the work being done with the Eastleigh Deanery. We will look at extending the ‘ARK’ concept into other areas. If the Eastleigh Pilot is successful, the model could be taken and rolled out elsewhere.”
After the meeting the Rt Revd Dr Jonathan Frost, Bishop of Southampton, wrote to Cllr Perry to thank him for the briefing.
The Rt Revd Dr Frost wrote: “One of the many encouragements of my life as a Bishop is to encounter good people who are engaged in seeking the common good. I left the Council offices with a strong sense that I had been in the company of an outstanding team who together are doing a quite remarkable job for us all in the county.”