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Flexible and creative: why the value of the Third Sector shouldn't be underestimated

In October last year Lyndsay Fraser Robertson started as our new Supporting the Third Sector (STTS) Project Manager. Here she reintroduces the project and explains its role in helping to influence national policy on combating poverty in Scotland

The pandemic has left no sector unchanged, and the third sector is no exception.

Following the initial lockdown in March 2020, third sector organisations sprang into action across Scotland to ensure the most vulnerable in our communities were taken care of. Third Sector children’s services acted with flexibility, allowing them to reach families quickly and in creative ways. This highlighted the huge value and variety of the third sector in communities across the country.

With a background working with a family support service in Edinburgh delivering support to some of our most vulnerable children and families, I was excited to take up my role with the Supporting the Third Sector project at Children in Scotland. Being on the front line is extremely rewarding work but, while I met many inspirational families, I was limited in terms of how much I was able to change the systems that surround families and keep them in the cycle of poverty.

This was a significant factor in why I moved back from front line practice; so that I could be involved in influencing the design of services and national policy to address the root causes of poverty and inequality in Scotland. Having spent my career working in service delivery and service design based on the needs of  communities, I have a strong understanding of the challenges facing Third Sector Children’s Services.

Supporting the Third Sector is a unique project that aims to strengthen the role of the Third Sector within Children’s Services Planning. The project is working to do this by:

  • Building the capacity of the third sector
  • Keeping organisations informed about relevant policies and legislation
  • Providing opportunities for third sector and statutory partners to network
  • Supporting local organisations and grassroots community groups to have a voice at a national level.

The largest stakeholder of the project are Third Sector Interfaces (TSIs), which provide a single point of access for support and advice for the third sector within local areas. There is a TSI in each local authority area in Scotland. Some TSIs facilitate a local Children’s Services Forum to enable third sector organisations to engage collectively with the strategic planning and delivery of local children’s services.

The TSI Children’s Services Network brings the TSIs together and provides a platform for capacity-building through knowledge exchange and peer support. The TSI Network is hosted by the Supporting the Third Sector project. The project supports the Network as well as the local Children’s Services Forums to amplify their voices in national discussions and use their local work, knowledge and experiences to inform and influence national policy development.

Part 3 of the Children (Scotland) Act states that the third sector should be a strong partner in strategic planning of local services. Reflecting this, the Supporting the Third Sector project’s outcomes focus on four areas:

  • Increased local third sector engagement in planning, development and budgeting of services
  • Strengthened local support structures and clear paths for effective engagement with the third sector locally
  • Local and community-based third sector voices are amplified within national policy development
  • Stronger impact of the third sector across all areas of national and local policy development as a result of increased capacity and capability of Third Sector Interfaces.

I started my role as Project Manager in October, and it was a busy run-up to the Christmas break. As well as getting to grips with the project, I was busy organising national events, meetings and writing policy consultation responses on behalf of the TSI Network and for Children in Scotland.

Having enjoyed some time off over Christmas I am ready once again to focus on working collaboratively with the TSI Network and other partners to ensure the Third Sector’s voice is heard and listened to in Children’s Services planning. Ultimately this will provide opportunities for children and families in Scotland an equal chance to flourish.

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About the author

Lyndsay Fraser Robertson is the Project Manager for Supporting the Third Sector

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