Somerset County Council

Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Strategic Forum


Working with the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise Sector

We recognise the huge diversity of the work carried out by voluntary organisations and the important contribution it makes in supporting our communities in Somerset. We are committed to developing and improving the way we work in partnership with the sector as a whole.  We are keen to build on the principles of the Somerset Compact and improve the relationship between the voluntary and community sector and public bodies.

VCSE Strategic Forum

The Somerset VCSE Strategic Forum brings together representatives, each with a mandate to represent a significant section of the sector, with senior staff from the County Council, District Councils, Clinical Commissioning Group, and other key county-wide services to enable an exchange of information and views for the benefit of Somerset's people. Its inaugural meeting was on 22 April 2015.

For more information on the VCSE Forum and key Somerset VCSE initiatives, visit

Useful Contacts

If you are a local VCSE organisation or community group that requires assistance with developing your group, business planning, sourcing or applying for funding or recruiting volunteers then your local VCSE infrastructure organisation may be able to assist and help you. They also support and encourage networking across the sector through newsletters and hosting local forums. The geographical CVS organisations with their associated Volunteer Centres are:

Somerset Community Foundation work to increase the impact of local philanthropy. Their website gives you more information about funds and initiatives they are involved in.  

Community Council for Somerset support a range of initiatives including Village Agents Project, support for village halls and community buildings, community and neighbourhood planning, using Community Rights, funding support, energy projects, Social Enterprise Somerset and other local initiatives. There is more information on their website.

Healthwatch gathers and represents the public's views on health and social care services in England. They have statutory powers to ensure the voice of the consumer is strengthened and heard by those who commission, deliver and regulate health and care services. They also sit on the Somerset Health and Wellbeing Board.

The Somerset Emergency Voluntary Agencies Group support the Civil Contingencies Unit with response and recovery in emergencies across Somerset.

About the sector 
The VCSE sector, is sometimes referred to as 'the Third Sector', ‘Social Purpose Sector or ‘Civil Society’. It is made up of groups that are independent of government and are constitutionally self-governing, usually with an unpaid voluntary management committee. They exist for the good of the community, to promote social, economic, environmental or cultural objectives to benefit society as a whole, or particular groups within it.

This sector traditionally consists of groups that meet one or more of the following: 

  • Are charities – either through registration with the Charity Commission or as self-defined charities due to their annual income being below the £5,000 threshold. 
  • Are non-profit-making, including not-for-profit community enterprises.
  • Are sports clubs, excluding professional clubs.
  • Are informal, unregistered, groups consisting of volunteers that act collectively to provide a service to their local community or a specific group in need.

A ‘State of the Sector’ Survey (published February 2017) collected evidence from charities and voluntary groups from across Somerset about the issues and challenges they are facing as well as their development and support needs. The report celebrates the work of the thousands of charities and voluntary groups providing vital support in our communities, but it also highlights a sector under pressure. InfographicThe full report.

More information
The UK Civil Society Almanac brings together data from charities’ accounts, administrative data and surveys to provide a comprehensive overview of the structure and economy of the UK voluntary sector  For information about registered charities, visit the Charity Commission website.

For more information, please email

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