This event was about celebration; taking stock of what Forum Central and the third sector has achieved over the past 3 years and thinking about priorities for the next 5 years.


The first part of the morning concentrated on reflecting the past three years and looking ahead to the next three (or potentially five) years.

Kath Lindley, Rachel Cooper and Karen Pearse covered the first three years of the Forum Central contract with their personal reflections and also spoke of their vision for the future. Looking back and taking stock of what has been achieved and how far you have come is always a good exercise.

All too often (particularly in the third sector) you are so busy doing the work that you don’t always realise or appreciate what you have achieved.

The meeting heard about some of our key achievements in strategic work, Health and Care Transformation, the Health and Care Leader’s Network, representation, Partnership Executive Group (PEG), the Learning Disabilities Awards and of course our Massive Market Place Event.

There are of course many more but the article would be far too long if we mentioned everything.

Getting our four organisations to come together in the way we have has been quite a journey, albeit a bumpy one at times, but we must have done OK as we won Leeds City Council Adults and Health Partner of the Year for 2018.

Round table provocations

We wanted to hearing what Forum Central members thought were some of the trickier issues facing the third sector and how we can support them to tackle these in the future and we chose to do this by having discussions based on provocations set by the Forum Central team:

How can we attract a quality workforce when we can’t compete with the higher wages and better conditions of other sectors?

There was a clear feeling that the third sector is competing well; people come to the sector because of their values which are more compatible with the third sector’s ways of working. There is sense of purpose and a feeling that we can make a difference.

The third sector needs appropriate funding to pay the living wage. Short contracts cause instability and insecurities often meaning that people leave when their contract is nearing its end. We need to have challenging discussions with commissioners about funding, contract length and the living wage.

Getting people to self-manage their health is impossible when they have been taught to rely on the NHS for everything.

Self-management is not impossible but it is challenging. The third sector can be more empowering for people, but it’s hard to get past the perception that “I’ve paid my taxes so I want to use the NHS.”

Some parts of the system are working against each other. For example, the third sector uses an asset-based approach, but the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) works from a deficit-based approach. Some of our services are hard to access because people have to prove that they are ill/disabled/poor enough – another deficit-based approach.

The statutory sector, especially NHS, runs from the top, with people at the bottom, but patients or service users need a voice. A more holistic view of people and their needs is important.

The Integrated Care System: Can it transform Health and Care services, or is it just a red herring that keeps resources in the NHS, when they could go directly to the third sector and communities?

The culture of the third sector is that we’re more successful at working with local authorities than health – doors open much more easily.

The third sector has lost its teeth. It should return its political roots and deliver social action to make change happen.

There was a belief that sector has not ‘lost its teeth’ and not all change needs to be political, it can be dealing with problems by individuals or small groups.

We’re still challenging issues and we can also bring case studies. We have more power together and are less vulnerable as organisations. However, resources are tight and there is not much space or money to allow for lobbying.

Social media could be used for this role. As charities we are not the only ones who can challenge.

The political roots of the sector are still there and people are still politically active. learning disability and physical and sensory impairment organisations should come together and have cross-board campaigns, on access, assessments, the rise of foodbanks etc. People are motivated!

It’s a difficult dynamic, especially as Voluntary Action-Leeds and Forum Central are council funded – how can they challenge the council?

The sector can create change, but not necessarily by lobbying or political action. We can raise issues and challenge organisations and get the third sector a place at top tables.

Is the third sector really an equal health and care partner or still seen as the poor relation / a cheaper option?

It feels like the sector is not as well funded as we’d like it to be and we should be challenging this a lot more and making it more diverse and inviting to people in our area.

Working together to achieve better outcomes and further support communities.

There needs to be a call-to-arms for larger organisations to help smaller organisations to get involved with bigger contracts. Third sector organisations must collaborate more to get larger contracts.

Forum Central can influence this and raise potential with commissioners and raise awareness with bigger organisations.

Looking forward

Following the the summarising of the round table provocations and Alison Lowe and Bill Rollinson spoke about what’s next with Forum Central having secured the contract for another three years. They both reinforced the message of the good work being done by the third sector in Leeds and the role that Forum Central has had and will continue to have in this

We face some changes with the departures of Kath Lindley and Karen Pearse and will be short on staff for several weeks whilst we recruit new workers but once we are back up to full capacity we will be ready to face any challenges the next three years present.

Cutting the cake

With all the talking out of the way Alison Lowe got on with the important work of cutting our celebratory cake; a positive end to a positive event!