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Sara Llewellin, Chair of the Independent Commission on the Future of Local Infrastructure , and Chief Executive of the Barrow Cadbury Trust, blogs about the next steps following the recent launch of the report of the Commission and her hopes for “leaner, meaner and more technologically savvy” infrastructure.


Oxford Dictionary definition of infrastructure: The basic physical and organisational structures and facilities needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.


NAVCA launched the Commission’s report to a packed house of VCS representatives from across England at a House of Commons event last week. Although this marked the end of the Commission’s role, it was just the start of a process of change, not an end in itself.


There was no doubt in the room about the importance of infrastructure to the wellbeing of communities and the need to recognise, nurture and enable it, but there was always going to be disagreement about how infrastructure support should be provided and what might need to change to make it work


The economic downturn, austerity, the welfare reform agenda and reductions to central government and local authority budgets are all impacting on social action adversely, with a heady cocktail of rising needs, reduced resources and a climate of anger and fear. Local infrastructure bodies are themselves experiencing loss of income; many are facing uncertainty and looking for new ways to serve their communities with less cash.


The Commission’s task was to undertake an analysis of what the sector needs from its infrastructure and to make proposals about what needs to change for those needs to be met. We knew a call for more money and a return to the previous status quo was out of the question. Things have changed, we’re in a ‘new normal’, and proposals based on asking for things rather than offering a change agenda will fall on deaf ears.


So we went out on the road and talked to people in various parts of England, mindful of the different challenges of the North and South, rural, urban and city settings. Everywhere we went, we found good things happening. Everyone we talked to had good examples of proactive change and some of these are included in the report. Every change we are recommending is happening in some places.


There is every reason to be optimistic about the resilience of community action but no room for complacency about how best to support it. The real punch line is that yes, infrastructure does deserve and need to be financed, but that it also has to undergo a redesign. It needs to be leaner, meaner and more technologically savvy. It needs to act as a lever bringing in new resources to the sector, including social investment, crowd funding and pro bono support. It needs to be the enabler of voice and the advocate of community action. It needs to collaborate and share more cost effectively. Above all, it needs to help the sector with foresight and managing change, because the pace of change is not going to slow.


These were our conclusions, but what will happen next? NAVCA will support and promote the implementation of the Commission’s findings, publishing a review of progress in early 2016. It will provide opportunities for local infrastructure bodies and their partners to learn from each other and offer mutual advice and support, as well as hosting a series of round table events in partnership with NCVO for local, national and specialist infrastructure organisations to create a collaborative approach to shaping the future of local infrastructure, working with funders at all levels to develop creative and sustainable solutions to secure the future of infrastructure, ensure that NAVCA itself complies with and models the best qualities of an infrastructure body as described by the Commission, and continually challenge its members to do the same.   Download the report here.

Disabled people and their families should be able to live, learn, work and get involved in their communities without extra costs getting in the way according to a new Commission launched today.  The Scope Extra Costs Commission is a year-long independent inquiry that will explore the extra costs faced by disabled people, and families with disabled children, in England and Wales. It will look at how businesses, local and national government, as well as the public and voluntary sectors can work in new and innovative ways to drive down extra costs.


The commission has been launched in response to Scope research, which reveals that disabled people pay a financial penalty on everyday living costs – on average £550 per month, with one in ten paying over £1000 a month. The report revealed that disabled people have a higher cost of living in three areas:


  • Having to spend more on everyday things like heating, or taxis to work
  • Paying for specialist items, like a wheelchair or a hoist or other equipment
  • Paying more for everyday products and services, like insurance, travel, clothes and cutlery.


Markets must work more efficiently


The Chair of the Commission, Robin Hinlde Fisher, said “The markets are failing disabled people, and they are all too often paying more than they should in many areas of their lives.


“The extra costs disabled people pay have a direct impact on living standards, preventing many from contributing fully to their local communities.


“It is crucial that companies, regulators, local government, trade bodies, and disabled people’s organisations give us their perspective.”


Effects of Extra Costs


The impact on disabled people’s finances and living standards is stark. These extra costs mean disabled people find it harder to enjoy family life fully, participate and contribute to their local communities, live independently, get into education and training, find and stay in employment, build their own financial resilience and contribute to pensions.


Over the next year a panel of business experts, economists, and disabled people will look at how businesses, local and national government, as well as the public and voluntary sectors can work in new and innovative ways to tackle the disability premium.


Find out more about the Commission here and join the debate on Twitter using #extracostscommission


Ellie Brawn, Public Policy Adviser at SCOPE, blogged recently, for the Barrow Cadbury Trust, about extra costs faced by disabled people and the Extra Costs Commission. Read the blog here.

Barrow Cadbury Trust’s CEO, Sara Llewellin, introduced the first of three roundtable discussions centre-right think tank Bright Blue are holding as part of their new research project ‘A balanced centre-right agenda on immigration’.  speakers included Paul Uppal MP and Number 10 Policy Board, Professor Anthony Heath, Head of Sociology, Oxford University, Sunder Katwala, Director, British Future, and David Aaronovitch, Times columnist.


Speakers and invitees explored the social and cultural implications of immigration, including community relations, identity, housing and public services.  New positive narratives and policies on the cultural impact of immigration which could be championed by centre-right politicians were debated.


A recently launched Bright Blue Commission is looking to identify and promote new policies and ideas for the centre-right on immigration. Bright Blue are inviting individuals and organisations to submit written evidence with new suggestions on immigration which can inform policy direction and political narrative.   They are seeking a positive and fair centre-right agenda on immigration to ensure that the benefits of immigration are maximised and the challenges are confronted.   Individuals and organisations are invited to submit evidence to [email protected] by noon on Monday 18 August 2014.