The Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector across Norfolk and Waveney is large and varied. There are 3,645 registered charities, 220 community interested companies and 124 societies with their registered offices in Norfolk and Waveney.

There are also many informal VCSE organisations, often referred to as ‘below the radar’ groups. Previous research has suggested a medium estimate of below the radar groups is 7.5 per 1,000 of population. This would suggest Norfolk and Waveney has 8,250 of such groups bringing the total number of voluntary, community and social enterprise sector organisations to be in the region of 12,000.

In January 2019, the NHS Long term plan was published, with a key priority to join-up health and care services. In April 2022 Norfolk and Waveney is due to become

an Integrated Care System (ICS), bringing NHS organisations together with partners in local government and the VCSE sector to provide more joined-up care for people.

Through the ICS infrastructure, we will collectively plan, coordinate and provide high quality services that improve the health and wellbeing of the local population, and tackle inequalities. The VCSE sector are acknowledged as an essential partner in delivering these ambitions.   

Since 2019, VCSE organisations across Norfolk and Waveney have been working in collaboration with health and social care partners to develop a VCSE Assembly.  This aims to provide a more meaningful, effective and equitable partnership, to strengthen the relationships between the broad range of voluntary, community and social enterprise groups and organisations operating across Norfolk and Waveney, with local health and social care commissioners and providers.

There is a clear commitment by all partners to working together to design how the assembly will operate, so that we can ensure it represents and meets the needs of communities and the voluntary sector, and that the voices of smaller groups are heard.

Drawing on the experience across all sectors and communities during the pandemic, and following direct collaboration with partners, we have identified five strategic priorities that require initial focus and will feed into the development of a Memorandum of Understanding and local VCSE Assembly model. These five priorities are:

  • Equal Partnership – Support for the development of a culture, behaviours and processes that is consistent with whole system working and recognises the VCSE sector as an equal partner within our health and social care system.
  • Sustainable Resources model – A model of resourcing that ensures VCSE services that support the system’s effectiveness are resourced in a sustainable, effective and efficient way. A commitment that delivery models understand the externalities they create and recognise the resource transfers necessary to compensate for these.
  • Digital integration – An approach to digital integration that is inclusive of VCSE organisations and seeks to enable the best use of digital tools across the system as a whole with a focus on enabling integrated working for our teams.
  • Data sharing – The commitment to share operational and intelligence data appropriately and effectively, within information governance protocols, across the sector and organisational boundaries. The creation of the governance and technical capability to achieve this.
  • Consistent evidence & evaluation – The identification of a consistent set of evaluation and evidence tools recognised by all sectors and used across organisations consistently to provide reduced reporting demands, support comparable results and enable stronger evidence led delivery.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic in spring 2020, Norfolk and Waveney has seen VCSE organisations play a pivotal role in the Covid-19 response effort. By responding rapidly and adapting their services to meet the changing circumstance and needs of their local communities.

As our knowledge increases of the impact of Covid-19 on exacerbation of inequalities in our most vulnerable communities, the likely economic challenges ahead and needs for early intervention and prevention for recovery planning, our reliance as an ICS on VCSE partners to sustain our shared efforts will inevitably increase. The financial viability of our VCSE sector to ensure it can continue to play an active role in working together with statutory partners to support our communities, will remain paramount.

Patricia HewittPatricia Hewitt, Independent Chair of Norfolk and Waveney’s Integrated Care System, said:

“The voluntary, community and social enterprise sector is a vital partner within the emerging Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care System, which makes the role of the Chair of the VCSE Assembly vital in ensuring the needs, skills and scope of the sector is effectively represented in local decision-making.”

“I have seen first-hand how the VCSE sector can have a significant impact on connecting individuals and communities and supporting better health and wellbeing, but also championing the needs of under-represented populations and people that face day-to-day inequalities. As an Integrated Care System, we must ensure these voices are heard and are an active part of our decision-making.”

For further details of the developing N&W VCSE Assembly and the work programme current priorities being led by Emma Ratzer, the Assembly Chair and supported by the Assembly Steering Group, please email Emma This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

In October 2019, we – the local VCSE infrastructure organisations and the Health and Care partnership - ran a series of events across Norfolk and Waveney to bring the VCSE sector together to get their input on the priorities within Norfolk and Waveney’s five year strategic plan for health and care services. The events also explored a future model of working between the voluntary sector and health and social care statutory partners to support the delivery of the plan.

Over 100 representatives from VCSE organisations of all sizes across Norfolk and Waveney attended the events. You can read the feedback in a report from the events available here: