Welcome to the Westminster Community Network (WCN,), an independent network of local charities and community organisations working in Westminster. The WCN exists to be the voice of the voluntary sector in Westminster and works to build relationships, share ideas and influence strategic decision-making in the borough. Anyone who works in the voluntary sector and serves Westminster residents is welcome to attend meetings and participate.
One Westminster supports the WCN by setting up meetings and events, providing information and updates and through the Chair ensuring that the voice of the sector is heard loud and clear by our statutory and business partners.
Christine Mead, bi-borough Community Resilience Manager, outlined to the meeting the strategy behind Westminster Connects - through the emergency response from the start of the Covid-19 crisis to the current more transitional phase and going forward.
Key points about transition - hardship will continue, especially as unemployment increases, and a continuing unknown number of people will continue to need help because of shielding.
Westminster Connects will continue to support volunteering and partnership with the voluntary sector to provide assistance to those who need it. The response will need to be flexible - we may see Covid-19 spikes and/or a second major phase. The helpline will continue - increasingly as a pathway to Council services. Work is ongoing to build on the opportunities for volunteers which can sustain the community support that developed during the crisis. The Westminster Connects newsletter will become fortnightly and will promote volunteering opportunities.
Muskaan Khurana and Kaban Mohammadi from WCC presented on the Track and Trace systems and how the voluntary and community sector can help encourage understanding and use of it.
It was fantastic to meet so many of you at last week's Westminster Community Network. I feel very lucky to have the community sector as part of my portfolio - and I'm keen we make a difference where we can and where it's needed. I had the opportunity to speak with lots of you, but please do email Ezra Wallace in the first instance if there is anything you would like to follow up on.
We would very much like your more detailed feedback on the work we have produced together supported by RedQuadrant and we'll be making all of this available on our website in the coming weeks for you to provide your feedback and comments.
I also offered to send round details of some of the funding available from the council and the City of Westminster Charitable Trust:
Please do get in contact with Ezra if you would like to find out more about any of these
I’m very much looking forward to working with you all!
Councillor Mark Shearer
Deputy Cabinet Member for Community Services and Digital
At this week’s WCN meeting we were pleased to be joined by Councillor Mark Shearer, newly appointed as Westminster City Council’s Deputy Cabinet Member for Community Services and Digital. Mark spoke about his commitment to our sector and the importance of working in collaboration for the benefit of people in Westminster. We also heard from Ezra Wallace, Director of Policy and Projects at Westminster City Council who talked about a recent strategic review that has examined how the council works with the voluntary sector.
Tom Alexander and colleagues from Red Quadrant consultancy then gave a presentation on how they approached this work, and the strategy they have drafted for the Council, highlighting the importance of measuring the impact of our services and recognising the added social value in the work we do. The full presentation is available here.
If you have any comments or questions, please email One Westminster's Organisation Support team with your thoughts and they will ensure these are shared with the council.
The theme of our last meeting of the Westminster Community Network was accessibility – how easy is it for the people we work with to access services – whether that’s services provided by the council or other public organisations or our own voluntary and community organisations. What are the barriers that stop people taking part in activities or accessing opportunities?
Introducing digital services has been an approach taken by many organisations but this can present its own barriers for people who don’t have access to the internet, or a computer, or the skills to use one.
We were joined by Becky Chapman from Westminster City Council who led a discussion about people’s experiences of engaging with the council’s services online – see a summary of the points raised below.
Of course, this is a huge topic. As well as digital accessibility, people at the meeting raised concerns about using public transport, or accessing health and other services and the need to advocate for those we work with who have difficulties accessing mainstream services.
The main theme was community safety and speakers from the Metropolitan Police and Westminster City Council led discussions about how local communities experience policing in Westminster. The topic generated a great deal of interest and comment and many points and issues were raised. These included concern about how to report crime, particularly if police stations are not open, difficulty with using the online reporting system and people’s lack of awareness of their rights. Concern was also expressed about the risk of violence and being drawn into crime, particularly for young people, and for all ages, but especially older people, the risk of being the victim of cybercrime – scams, fraud, and so on.
It was felt that our organisations in the voluntary sector have an important role to play in building links and sharing information between the community and police. Adam Taylor from Westminster City Council announced that there will be funding available through the Mayor’s Office for groups to run community safety projects and further information on how to apply will be available shortly. In the meantime, the information presented at the meeting is available in the box below.
Our Westminster Community Network meeting in February focused on poverty and specifically, the poverty experienced by many of the people we work with across Westminster. We heard from Westminster Citizens Advice Bureau and Cardinal Hume Centre about some of the problems that Universal Credit can cause and speakers from Westminster Foodbank and North Paddington Foodbank talked about the increased demand for their services.
We realised when planning the meeting that this is not a light-hearted topic but, as well as raising awareness of the reality of poverty, we wanted to share information about the services and support provided by organisations in the WCN and the round table discussions that followed focused on where people in need can receive advice and support. A list has been prepared by One Westminster that can be accessed below.
Westminster Community Network will: