A new VCSE Assembly for Devon, Plymouth and Torbay

POP has been a part of a  small working party of VCSE organisations that have been meeting to discuss the development of a VCSE Assembly for Devon, Plymouth and Torbay to connect to and influence the fundamental changes that are happening in the statutory sector, particularly the formation of the Devon-wide Integrated Care System (ICS) – a cross sector partnership that concentrates on improving the health and happiness of Devon residents.

For it to work, the Assembly needs to be a broad based inclusive and shared collaborative model where people, communities and organisations can contribute and engage in the way they want to. Everyone who wants to be included will be included.

From its membership, The VCSE Assembly will create a pool of people and organisations that can be tapped into to inform and influence strategic partnership discussions, co-design of services, policy development, co-commissioning and joint leadership and decision making.  It will also provide a place where anyone can find out what is happening across partnerships through an open and transparent process.

Key principles of the Assembly will be:

  • Entry point is always kept open – anyone can join the Assembly
  • Those with specific interests and strengths will be encouraged to step forward
  • Those that feel they need to be heard will be
  • Digital systems that support the Assembly will be made open by default
  • Collaboration will be encouraged
  • Transparency and honesty will be a priority
  • To concentrate on engagement and not representation
  • To engage with existing local structures where they exist
  • A place that provides peer support and development opportunities for the sector.

The Assembly aims to be a Countywide collective that represents the best of the sector and will be a vehicle where our voice can be heard and our influence can be made at county level.

At this time we are still trying to understand how this will impact on local working relationships, particularly around localities and the Local Care Partnerships and POP hope to be able to influence the new VCSE Assembly to support local engagement/working and relationships.

If you have any comments you want forwarded to those planning the new Assembly, please send them through to info@plymouthoctopus.org.

The Care Nest Sings of Compassion


“May we care for ourselves; may we care for each other; may we care for this place.”

Stepping into The Care Nest for therapy is akin to being given a great big hug. The warm, cosy and intimate space is adorned with blankets, pillows, and candles casting a gentle light and creating a sense of softness. Helen Williams, who greets you with kindness and compassion, invites you to come to rest and settle into a session unlike any other you might have experienced. This is The Care Nest, where learning to love yourself is (as Whitney sang) the greatest love of all:

“All too often, we put our energies into caring for others and focusing on what others think of us instead of accepting ourselves. It’s not an egotistical love but one that takes accountability for our actions and one that is incredibly brave.”

This unique therapeutic space which opened earlier this year, and the compassionate aura that radiates from Helen, help to ‘hold’ the individual as they share intimate details of their life and explore their feelings, such as, grief, despair, anger, fear, exhaustion, frustration and loneliness. The extent and depth of feelings such as these, says Helen, have led to widespread ill health and great distress;

“Many of us are now experiencing pervasive and persistent trauma as a direct result of the harms that surround us. It cuts us to the heart, and it’s non-stop.”

Helen has set up The Care Nest to help people. Drawing on her own experiences and challenges – and armed with the appropriate professional training and qualifications along with an abundance of compassion – Helen supports individuals as they progress on a journey of rediscovery and greater self understanding.

Through a combination of talking therapy, mindfulness and body-mind integration practices, Helen delivers a trauma-sensitive approach in either one-to-one or group sessions both online and in-person.

“We are in a time of great division and loneliness and people are experiencing intense emotions that they are often unable to share. And, in our culture, we have almost no safe spaces in which to express these feelings so we don’t get listened to and often we’re told our feelings don’t count.”

From politicians to people with addictions Helen has found that any one of us might believe that we are not ‘enough’. Having delivered similar therapeutic practices via a one-hour workshop every day for five days to a cohort of community leaders in Scotland, including members of the leadership team of the Scottish government, Helen believes there is an undercurrent of unworthiness flowing through society. Through a simple set of invitations – to slow down, to notice, to name, and to investigate Helen believes we can learn to dissolve this flow of unworthiness and emerge with greater acceptance and love for ourselves.

If you feel the Care Nest could help you then contact Helen on 07584 635747 or email helen@matterinmotion.co.uk

POP Collectives Update

This document is an end of 2021 update on the current learning from our POP Collectives Fund. It hopes to inform the ongoing conversation about charitable funding both locally, within the Plymouth VCSE community, and nationally.

Since October 2020, nearly twenty projects have been awarded £3,000-£5,000 each from POP Collective.

From workshops preparing primary school girls for puberty to support agencies providing urgent items to refugees; from community art groups promoting wellbeing to opportunities for people living with disability to broadcast radio shows and podcasts, Collectives have worked together with invention, passion, and determination.

Since appointment, POP’s Learning Champion Simon Travers has met each of the funded Collectives and listened to their stories. Most of the observations contained within this document are based on first impressions from those meetings.

Click here to read the POP Collectives End of Year Update 2021

Positive People at Omnium Radio

It was with nervous excitement that a group of Positive People staff & peers visited The Clipper Community Music Hub on 29 November 2021 – their mission: to participate in a simulated Radio Broadcasting Workshop…

The POP branch of Positive People works alongside our peers to discover identity, facilitate personal development, promote confidence building, and provide support into volunteering, or further training or employment. When discussing the idea of hosting a radio broadcasting workshop, Trace Jared-Davis, the Founder of Omnium Radio CIC based in The Clipper Community Music Hub, was quick to highlight the positive affect the Omnium radio training package has had for his broadcasters – many having never presented before, and some of whom require additional support to suit their needs. Omnium is the Latin word for everyone, and Trace has designed a training package to be inclusive of all with particular attention paid to active listening, effective communication, and confidence building.

Trace eased us into the workshop with an introduction to the technical equipment we would be using that day – a frighteningly vast display of knobs and sliders soon became a simple sequence to shift between mic and music. Then it was on to an ice breaker task designed to elicit information between ‘presenter’ and ‘guest’ roles that focused on active listening and effective communication. A great exercise in getting to know people better – especially when the findings were presented to the group!

As the day went on, each participant found themselves in the hot-seat selecting and presenting their music choice to the group – an activity that surprised a few of our shyer members who found voices they never knew they had and chatted like pros into the mic! With confidence lifted and support from each other we nervously made our way to the Omnium Radio Booth at The Plot to take turns being the presenter or a guest speaker. Trace dropped random topics for discussion mere seconds before hitting the record button and launched us into simulated broadcasts… and it was exhilarating! Give people the right support and an environment to grow in, and they thrive. We witnessed laughter, jokes, and a wealth of natural ability emanate from the broadcasting booth, made even more apparent by the reaction of the room during the playback of our recordings. Our time with Omnium delivered on the promise of an inclusive workshop aimed at communication skills and building confidence.

A huge thank you goes to Trace and staff at The Clipper Community Music Hub for a great experience! Perhaps if you’re looking for a staff team-building activity, or a similar workshop to ours, give Omnium Radio a call!

Find out more at https://www.omniumradio.online/

Reflections on POP’s AGM Voices Hybrid Event

If the words ‘hybrid event’ are music to your ears or (more likely if you’re in charge of organising one) send you into a panic then I hope this blog might help!

POP works with grassroots organisations, charities and social enterprises by supporting them to work together and take a lead in creating change. We were excited to put together our 1st big ‘in-person’ event early November 2021.


During the planning stages, we realised that due to uncertainty with rising numbers in the Plymouth region the event might need to be cancelled or brought online. However, it’s important to keep planning as if the event will go ahead so that important decisions aren’t left to the last minute.

Although we planned carefully for a socially-distanced event, we wanted to be as inclusive as possible and fully include those who preferred to join via Zoom.


If you’re inviting a speaker, think ahead as inspirational speakers get booked up way in advance. We were thrilled to secure Cormac Russell of Nurture Development Limited who was able to join live from Ireland via Zoom. As a non-profit organisation you need to consider your budget but aim to give members a really useful experience. We also had a Workshop given by one of POP’s Associates, Stephane Kolinsky of Sky Space Team Development and POP’s very own Administrator Deborah Penprase. Throughout the day, we invited some of the Neighbourhood Networks and Collectives that POP has been working with to display some of the great things they’ve been doing in our ‘Marketplace’.

Venue and Tech

Plymouth has some fantastic venues, many of which are available to hire by the hour or day and we decided on The Beacon in North Prospect. The Conference Suite was a great size with excellent ventilation options and a separate kitchen area allowing us to easily manage providing 2 tea/coffee stations and a lunch area for up to 70 attendees allowing socially distancing.

However, it’s important to test your tech in advance of the big event. We booked in for a layout and tech test which made it clear that we needed some extra support. We needed to show up to 70 attendees the speaker on screen and ensure the sound came out clearly. Ideally connection to a TV screen would be best but a laptop connected to a projector worked equally well.

Soundwise though we needed to hire in sound and microphone equipment which was an added expense but vital and would recommend Dave and Simon from Clockwork Audio for providing exactly what was needed.

Unfortunately WiFi was not performing as expected, which was a big problem so we found the solution by purchasing mobile broadband boxes – another big reason for testing in advance! This was an investment for the day and future events.

We also realised there wasn’t the right technical skills within the team so were very fortunate to be able to hire the services of Aaron Monk from Diverse Events to ensure things worked seamlessly on the day. It’s a great relief to have someone overseeing the sound and visual tech on the day!

On the day

Make sure everyone knows their ‘roles’ for the day in advance and have 1 person overseeing things. We were lucky to be able to do a full check in on sound/visual/layout the day before as Martin the Ranger at the Beacon had everything set up ready and was extremely helpful!

Be clear with any housekeeping points eg are you encouraging people to socially distance? We shared our Risk Assessment document prior to the day. The venue did not have any guidelines (as not needed at this time) but we wanted people to feel as comfortable and protected as possible.

Don’t forget to take lots of photos – we were very lucky to have the services of a photographer who volunteered to help.

Try to enjoy and talk to new contacts and old friends!


Claire Law is Core Lead at POP helping organise events and internal operations. She is happy to help if anyone has any questions! Get in touch at claire@plymouthoctopus.org

Watch out: Wellbeing Warriors about

Children in Keyham are being urged to transform themselves into Wellbeing Warriors. A new weekly club has been set up for young people between the ages of seven and thirteen. Through yoga, mindfulness, games and crafts the sessions intend to fortify the children with resilience and life skills. Run by Haidee Dampney from The Tree Project, which was set up in 2018 to “explore wellbeing in our lives”, it could not, she says, have come at a better time.

“It’s been such a tough year for everyone,” says Haidee. “With the Wellbeing Warriors club we’re focussing on the children, providing them with a safe space where they can come make friends and have fun and, at the same time, teaching them the means to live a happier life and help manage life’s ups and downs.”

In a world made more challenging by recent events, Haidee firmly believes that one of the things we can do for young people is teach them to be more resilient. Fifteen children are taking part in the weekly Wellbeing Warriors sessions, and despite only starting in September, Haidee can already see a transformation;

“In a relatively short space of time we’ve seen many of the children better able to articulate their feelings and that’s a really good thing at any age. They’re really engaging with the yoga, the mindfulness and the relaxation and, I think, because of this, and the creative and outdoor elements of the sessions, are finding effective ways to care for themselves and each other.”

The Wellbeing Warriors course is run by The Tree Project in collaboration with Creative Curiosities. If you know someone who might be interested, contact Haidee on 07722 846 879 or at thetreeprojectcic@gmail.com

What would you do with £250?

One of POP’s members Aslan (an inter-church discipleship group of Persian Christians) recently spent their 250 a POP grant taking a group of asylum seekers on a community camping trip over to the lovely Maker Camp at Rame. The two-night minibreak provided the group of ten women and men with some much-needed light relief and fun away from the many challenges and concerns they face each day. As Louise Anderson from the Farsi-speaking community says the trip was a great success;

“It was such a joy to watch everyone relaxing, laughing and having fun together. I think for several of them it was like the sun bursting through the clouds after a long season of stormy weather.”

Without the funding there is no way, says Louise that anyone could have paid for the trip themselves. The funding from POP turned it from a dream to reality;

“Asylum seekers are on a very basic budget and there really isn’t room to put money aside for an event like this. So, the grant made all the difference to us being able to go ahead with this trip.”

The £250 a POP fund is open to members. Membership of POP is free-of-charge. For more information visit www.plymouthoctopus.org

How being ‘too big for their boots’ gave kids a sporting chance

POP gets to hear about many wonderful initiatives that begin because someone somewhere has a good idea: that idea then turns into action and, before-you-know-it, a fantastic grassroots community project has been born.

Take local painter & decorator, Luke Riggs, for example: two years ago he was a Dad helping out with a bit of coaching at his son’s football team (Marjons U14s) the next minute, he’s established a Football-BootBank and providing thousands of boots to hundreds of families across the city free-of-charge. The need for the project has, he says, taken him, completely by surprise:

“It started off with me polishing up my son’s football boots and offering them up on Facebook. And then it just got bigger, now we’ve got about two hundred pairs of boots going out every month; we’re sending to Cornwall and looking at starting one in Exeter.”

Luke reckons that since it began, he has sent out more than 3,000 pairs of boots. The majority – about 90% – stay in the city, the rest travel to Gambia where “they literally play in bare feet”. As a parent, Luke understands that some families will find it hard to pay between £30 and £100 every time their children need a new pair of boots:

“There’s so much pressure on parents with financial problems trying to keep up with expensive uniform and sportswear and this is just a great way of being able to support them.”

With a £1000 grant via POP from the Street-to-Scale fund and the willingness of several local companies to support the project and sponsor a bin, the Football Boot Bank has been able to pay for forty eight ‘collecting’ bins and set them up at schools, sports clubs and businesses across the city. A charity match last year helped to raise another £1800 which has meant that the boot bank can now rent a garage which has helped enormously. With several hundred pairs of boots coming in every month Luke was running out of storage room:

“I’ve got a 4’ by 6’ shed and that soon filled up and then the boots were taking over the spare room as well!”

And there have been a lot of redundant boots: with lockdown, all club sports stopped, and thousands of pairs of football boots sat idle, while, at the same time, children continued to grow. The problem post-lockdown: children had got too big for their boots.

“We passed on a brand-new pair of boots”, says Imogen Potter, “with no games, the boots just hadn’t been worn.” Imogen also gave Luke some advice. As the capacity building manager for POP ideas, Luke had approached Imogen for help with the development of the boot bank. Now, with a committee and a constitution, the Football Boot Bank has evolved into a formal organisation. As Luke admits there’s a bit difference between being a football ‘Dad’ to running a city-wide project:

“It’s been a bit mad at times and it’s taken up a lot of time and effort. But I couldn’t stop now, not knowing that there’s such a demand for it and the difference it makes. And I’ve got to know some of the families and some of them are so grateful they send me photos of the kids in their boots … no, I couldn’t stop now.”

If you’d like to donate a pair of boots; get involved; support the Football Boot Bank in your community or if your child is in need of a pair of boots contact Luke at Plymouthfootballbootbank@yahoo.com or visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Plymouth-Football-Boot-Bank-677351636037494/

On Your Bike!

An ongoing relationship between the social enterprise, Bikespace and Devon and Cornwall Refugee Support has provided people the freedom to get around; a means of exercise and a little bit of joy.

At the beginning of 2020 DCRS acquired some funding to rent out part of the Bikespace workshop for a new project one day a week to repair old bikes which would then be given to members of Plymouth’s asylum seekers community. The project ran for several months and during that time more than twenty bikes were repaired by Ronnei, a trained mechanic and Kurdish refugee, who helped to devise the programme with Suvi Rehell, project manager with DCRS at the time. Almost immediately, Suvi saw how the project was making a difference;

“I was going for a walk and I saw two guys cycling by the seaside and I knew that they had got their bikes from us. So, not only are they able to get to their appointments and college and where they want to be for free, but they could cycle to the seaside and get some fresh air and that made me very happy.”

And it worked out well for Ronnei too. Once the project with DCRS came to an end he was taken on at Bikespace. Now, after completing a course at the City College, he is once again working as a qualified mechanic in one of the city garages. As Suvi from DCRS confirms: Integration of refugees through sport is about more than sport.

Wheels keep turning: if you have a bike that you no longer require you might like to donate it to Bikespace.

Community sector provides rapid response to food insecurities

Voluntary Sector organisations from the South West launch a report revealing the impact of collaboration on vulnerable communities

Food insecurity has been on the rise in the UK for several years. Many issues surrounding it have been exacerbated by the pandemic. For many people living with food insecurities, things are about to get worse. The £20 top up to Universal Credit is set to come to an end in October, coupled with the end of furlough. A group of voluntary sector organisations collaborated to commission a report, examining food vulnerability. This is particularly prevalent in Cornwall, which is the most deprived area in the south west region.

The Food Insecurities Report, completed by Rose Regeneration demonstrates the importance of collaboration in the pandemic. Food insecurity provides a lens through which to understand a wider range of impacts linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. In particular, food insecurity demonstrates the role that the voluntary and community sector (VCS) has played in the pandemic – not just in helping to provide food support, but in linking this support to mitigate the effects of the broader social and economic impacts on local communities. Many of the issues identified in this report and the response to them predate the pandemic, which has brought them to a head. A huge civic effort, organised at the local level, has demonstrated the significant capacity of local people to solve big challenges when faced by a crisis without undue direction and, in some cases, with very little external funding.

The report was prepared for the Voluntary and Community Sector Emergencies Partnership (VCSEP SW) and is intended to support them move away from emergency and towards recovery, in a space where ‘business as usual’ will not be an option for many communities.

Read the full report here: http://roseregeneration.co.uk/food-insecurity/

Key features of lived experience

· An inability to build and draw on financial safety nets – low-paid work, zero hours contracts, mixed self-employment/salaried work, and/or work in unpredictable sectors left people financially exposed under Covid-19

· Caring responsibilities which limited income potential and raised outgoings – particularly but not only for women and single parents.

· Health and mental health challenges – 70% were experiencing chronic health issues prior to Covid-19; 65% long-term mental health issues.

· Elimination of social food sharing – many had previously counted on meals with others (e.g. a family Sunday roast) to stretch their weekly food budgets.

· People struggling to afford supermarket delivery fees – e.g., if isolating; c.£4-£6 for grocery delivery is a big percentage of a £25/£30 weekly food budget.

· Reduced access to ‘budget’ shops and not being able to ‘bargain shop’ – the inability to reliably access preferred supermarkets increased costs.

· Increased competition for ‘value’ and ‘budget’ brands – cheaper items were often already taken by others, leaving only expensive branded items.

· Price increases by shops which charged more for basics when Covid-19 hit.

· People relying on others to help with food shopping – but feeling too ashamed to dictate brand choices or supermarket choice, raising spend

A positive example is the Cornwall VSF Food Access Alliance. The Alliance has created a networking forum for food banks, community larders, distribution orgs and community growers to collaborate. This level of collaboration ensures that support (through donations and food surplus) is maximised and redistributed to those people/communities where there is demand. Insights from on the ground help contribute to the overall Food Security strategy. Cornwall VSF shares this with multiple stakeholders locally and nationally to advocate for a more sustainable food strategy for all.

Helen Boardman, CEO of Cornwall Voluntary Sector Forum said, “The response to the pandemic here has been phenomenal. There are possibly too may community organisations to mention, for fear of missing some out. What these demonstrate is that it an emergency, we can rely on communities.”

Key findings of the report:

1. The voluntary and community sector has played a central role in the local food response to the Covid-19 crisis

2. Whilst the nature of the response in each locality reflects the geography, demographics and capacity of each area, there are key common themes

3. The Covid-19 crisis has allowed new approaches to develop quickly, with VCS organisations often having increased agency to make decisions and shape approaches within cross-sector partnerships

4. The challenge now is to ensure that local food strategies move effectively from emergency response to providing sustainable support that links to wider agendas around poverty, health, and local sustainability.

5. Future approaches should be based on a clear, evidenced understanding of need at a local level

Robyn Knox VCSEP Director said, “This report supports the vital inclusion of voluntary and community sector organisations in building a resilient society. It also highlights how existing social inequalities can so easily be exacerbated in an emergency situation. We hope to see more inclusion of the voluntary and community sector in local resilience building and in influencing and co-creating positive health outcomes for all.”


Notes to Editors

Background information

VCSEP South West

The Voluntary and Community Sector Emergencies Partnership is a partnership of local and national voluntary and community sector organisations, formed in response to learnings from several national crises in 2017. It was recognised that a more coordinated response amongst the voluntary and community sector was needed when responding to an emergency and the Emergencies Partnership is supporting the sector to make this a reality.

The Emergencies Partnership provides space and opportunity for 230 local and national voluntary and community organisations to come together and build connections that will ensure support reaches those in need more effectively.

The South West alliance is comprised of • Voluntary Action Swindon • Plymouth Octopus • Reading Voluntary Action • Gloucestershire VCS Alliance • Spark Somerset • West of England Rural Network • Cornwall Voluntary Sector Forum • Community Action Network: Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole

With local lead liaisons in:

1. Bristol, Bath NE Somerset

2. Cornwall

3. Devon, Torbay & Plymouth

4. Dorset/ Bournemouth, Christchurch, Poole

5. Gloucestershire

6. Somerset

7. Swindon and Wiltshire

8. Thames Valley

Cornwall VSF

Cornwall Voluntary Sector Forum (VSF) is the voice of VCSE organisations in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Our aim is to work with others to create a thriving and effective voluntary sector.

G7 Summit

For more information, please contact Laura Barnes at Cornwall Voluntary Sector Forum

Laura Barnes

VCSE Communications, Marketing and PR Officer laura.barnes@cornwallvsf.org

Tel: 07990633615