Voluntary Sector Briefing

As we bid farewell to 2023, a year of challenges and triumphs, we at Communities 1st are reflecting on our achievements and setting our sights on the opportunities 2024 will bring.  Our mission has always been to bolster and support the VCFSE sector. We are dedicated to ensuring that organisations like yours are not just surviving, but thriving - well run, sustainable, and impactful.  For details on the range of services we offer and how we can assist your organisation, please click here.  

In our ongoing effort to represent and advocate for our sector effectively, we have recently begun developing policy position statements on several key issues affecting our sector. Your input and experience are vital in crafting these statements and over the coming months we will be encouraging you to share your thoughts, insights, and experiences so that our collective voice is heard and resonates with the needs and aspirations of the communities we serve. 

Lastly, as the festive season approaches, I would like to extend my heartfelt wishes for a joyful Christmas and a prosperous New Year to you and your team. Your dedication and hard work are the backbone of our sector's success. Thank you for being an integral part of Communities 1st. Together, we can make a significant impact and bring about positive change in our communities.

Stephen Craker
Chief Executive




The Household Support Fund
According to the Minister for Social Mobility, Youth and Progression, Mims Davies, the current Household Support Fund will be in effect from April 2023 until the end of March 2024. The government has not made any further decisions regarding the fund and is reviewing all its existing programmes as usual. Officials from the Department for Work and Pensions have confirmed this information. However, for campaigning purposes, it is assumed that there is no commitment to extend the fund, and local services require urgent certainty to plan. Read more.



Charities seen as old-fashioned
Charities must adapt their fundraising and marketing strategies to appeal more to younger generations, according to the "Tomorrow's Donor, Today" report. The report is the first part of a research project by the GOOD Agency, Eden Stanley, and the Chartered Institute of Fundraising. It identifies five trends that generations under 50 are looking for and provides guidance on how charities can engage future donors. Further reading.



Meet Music for my Mind

Unlocking the power of music for people living with dementia 

Music for my Mind is a Hertfordshire charity aiming to improve the lives of people living with dementia, their family, friends, and care providers, by creating personalised music playlists that can be used as a free part of their care. 

Research shows that listening to personally meaningful music has many well-being benefits for people with memory loss or dementia including reducing drug reliance and helping to relieve depression and anxiety. 

Our free online Playlist Maker creates a playlist of favourite music from our teenage years automatically, helping families to reconnect and providing moments of calm at difficult times of day. 

To create a personalised playlist for a loved one with dementia, click here. Or if you know someone who can benefit, tell them about Music for my Mind.


If you are a member and would like your organisation to feature in Members Spotlight please email memberservices@communities1st.org.uk


If you want more information you can visit our website or contact our Voluntary Sector support team on 01727 649940.


Stronger Together Networks 2024
We have listened to feedback and updated and amended our 12 Stronger Together Networks so that they better reflect the needs of local organisations. 

If you are interested in networking with colleagues working in a similar field, sharing challenges and best practice then do come along.  Please click her for details of all Stronger Together Networks.

NEW FOR 2024- Communities 1st are working to develop policy position statements on a number of important issues impacting the sector and the communities we serve.  We want you to be a part of this conversation, so that the position statements reflect the views of the sector.   Please come to the Stronger Together Networks to join in, if you would like to input but cannot attend a Stronger Together Network, please email memberservices@communities1st.org.uk

Food support in Hertfordshire this Christmas
Operating hours for food support organisations (including foodbanks and pantries) have changed over the Christmas period.

Christmas operating hours and details of additional Christmas sessions for residents can be found on the help with cost of living page

Please help with sharing this information as widely as possible, to ensure that residents are aware of where they can access food support this Christmas. You can also access our cost of living toolkit for more information on the help available, including standard opening hours outside of the Christmas period.  

If you have any questions, please email WholeSystemsObesity@hertfordshire.gov.uk

Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan for Hertsmere (LCWIP)
Hertsmere Borough Council is working in partnership with Hertfordshire County Council, the highways authority, in drawing up the LCWIP.

They want to identify important local routes for people walking, using a wheelchair or riding a bike to go to work, school or to carry out other everyday trips in the borough, as well as what barriers Hertsmere residents face walking or cycling. This will form part of new LCWIP, which sets out ideas for creating safer pavements, footpaths, pedestrian crossings and cycle routes in key locations in Hertsmere. The aim is to make walking and cycling the natural choice for shorter journeys or part of longer journeys.

Please see the full article here: Making everyday journeys more sustainable - Hertsmere Borough Council

To register interest in being involved in the project, please see here: Hertsmere LCWIP.

Warm Herts Fund
Hertfordshire County Council and Hertfordshire Community Foundation l have launched their warm space grants, details of which can be found here. This can be used for:

  • Extra energy costs
  • Staff time
  • Volunteer expenses
  • Venue hire
  • Provision of free or subsidised drinks and food
  • Training
  • Other relevant costs for example, transport to the venue.

Each organisation would be able to apply for up to £2,000 for the provision of warm spaces.  

Hertfordshire County Council have launched their countywide directory of public spaces and buildings which people can use as a warm, welcoming places as temperatures drop.

Any organisation which registered with Hertfordshire County Council, should be able to log into their account to make sure that their details are up to date for this year. Any new organisation wishing to register with Hertfordshire County Council can register here.

AXA Head Coaches – Youth Mental Health Training
The next series of highly successful AXA Head Coaches programme, offering the Youth Mental Health First Aid Champion course, will be running again in early 2024. This free course is designed to support youth leaders who work with children and young people aged 8-18 years old with limited or no mental health training.

Participants will develop greater knowledge of common mental health issues to support young people. Eligibility criteria applies. Please click the button below to express your interest and get on to the waiting list.
Express your interest  


FREE Training for Your Staff and Volunteers
Do you have staff or volunteers who do not have a GSCE grade C/4 level Maths? We can offer courses free of charge to improve the number confidence of your workforce. Through a wide range of short learning sessions including Excel, Managing Personal Finances and Presenting Data, these can all be accessed online in your own time. If you, your staff or volunteers are interested please email training@communities1st.org.uk for more information, or call us for a chat on 01727 649950.

Digital Training Offer for Communities 1st Members
We are offering Communities 1st members access to an extensive programme of e-learning. Training is available from the following categories:

  • Digital Skills 
  • Equality, Diversity & Inclusivity 
  • Essential Skills 
  • Food and Hygiene
  • Health & Safety 
  • Leadership & Management 
  • Mental Health & Wellbeing 
  • Personal Development 
  • Policy & Legislation 

All training is available now. 

£125 gives access to 25 people per organisation to any of the courses. 

£200 gives access to any of the courses to 50 people per organisation. 

If you would like to take up this excellent offer but are not currently a member of Communities 1st, please contact memberservices@communities1st.org.uk.

Please email Juli Riley, Head of Engagement and Skills, Communities 1st for further information Juli.Riley@communities1st.org.uk


Hearing Loss Awareness Event
For: Those working in the community, voluntary and public sectors who would like to increase their understanding of how to make their services more accessible for Deaf people.
Date: Wednesday 10th January
Time: 12:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Location: St. Albans Civic Centre

St Albans City and District Council are hosting a Hearing Loss Awareness Session. The training will focus on supporting delegates to consider how their services can be made more Deaf friendly. Delegates will also gain an understanding of the history of the Deaf community, the impact of sign language, and the components of BSL.

The key areas that will be covered are:

  • To recognise some differences between Deaf and hearing culture
  • To understand the history of the Deaf community and the impact of sign language
  • To learn about the components of BSL
  • To discuss the different types of deafness
  • To be able to work with an interpreter efficiently
  • To consider how your services can become more Deaf-friendly 

To book onto this session please contact equality@stalbans.gov.uk.


New Leaf College
New Leaf College offers hope for the future despite life's challenges, offering opportunities, learning from other student's experiences and equipping students with skills to make changes to support their wellbeing. 

The college offers sessions in Stevenage, Watford, Ware and Hemel Hempstead as well as continuing to provide sessions online. 

They would like to work with partners who may be able to offer access for residents to join their online sessions from a local venue. If you can provide a venue, please call 01442864966 or contact louisa.whorrod@nhs.net

Please visit the New Leaf College here.



Date: Saturday 6th January from 4.30pm.
Location: Highfield Park Visitor Centre, Hill End Lane, AL4 0RA.
Tickets: free to all - donations accepted to cover the cost of the event.

Come along to eat, drink, be merry, and wish the Highfield Park trees Wassail (good health)!

The Wassail gives fruit growers the opportunity to drink to the good health of their fruit trees and scare away any evil spirits. Join in, decorate yourself with some ivy, leaves, tinsel, lights or feathers, and bring along something to make a noise, like a musical instrument or a pot and spoon to scare away the bad spirits and awaken the trees from their slumber.

Wrap up warm to fight the cold. Mulled cider, apple juice and refreshments will be served.

There is limited parking at this event - please be parked by 4.15pm.



Hours: 7.5 hours

Salary: £10.80 / hour 

Full Details: You can view the full details of this role here

How to Apply
You can send your application for this role via email to us@communities1st.org.uk or you can call us on 01727 649900.

About The Role
The Cleaner / Caretaker role is to provide a comprehensive cleaning service at the Phillimore Community Centre managed by Communities 1st and to provide occasional holiday cover for office cleaning at Ver House.
The successful applicant will be required to open and close the community centre for occasional hirers as required both during the week and at weekends. Regular hirers of the centres have their own keys and do not need this service.