Local champions to set the stage for community engagement

Three community leaders selected from voluntary organisations across the region have been appointed by Third Sector, Dumfries and Galloway to chair locality forums in three of the four locality areas; Annandale & Eskdale, Nithsdale and Wigtownshire.

An appointment is yet to be announced for the Stewartry.

Peter Ross, Director of DG-voice and Chair of Dumfries & Galloway LEADER Local Action Group, will facilitate the forum in Wigtownshire whilst Eileen Usher from Lochmaben Playcare and a representative on the Early Years Collaborative, will be responsible for Annandale & Eskdale. The forum in Nithsdale will be administered by Sam Johnston from Dumfries and Galloway Citizen’s Advice Service.

The three will form part of a team of ‘Locality Conveners,’ charged with establishing a ‘safe space’ for third sector organisations in the local community to come together to address pertinent issues, discuss strategies and identify opportunities of mutual interest. They will be the main link in their localities to developments in Health and Social Care integration and the Community Planning Partnership with support from the team at Third Sector, Dumfries and Galloway.

Locality Conveners Bios

Peter Ross

Peter Ross is a veteran of the voluntary sector, having volunteered in a large number of national, regional and local organisations since the mid 1980’s. He brings to the role, 25 years’ experience from previous roles as business owner, Health Improvement Officer, and a consultant in the areas of Community Forestry and community development. Not one to rest on his oars, Peter currently serves as a representative on the Employability Partnership in Wigtownshire. Although retired, he has taken up this new challenge and pledges to ‘Engage and Influence,’ a tenet which he says will guide his efforts in providing “strong and coherent representation for the third sector in the community planning partnership”. He had this to say about his appointment:

“I believe fully in the role of volunteering and active citizenship and will do my very best to fully represent the whole of the third sector here in Dumfries & Galloway.”

Eileen Usher

Eileen Usher has worked for Dumfries and Galloway council in schools and nurseries and with the NHS Integrated Children’s Services and has years of experience as a foster carer, professional childcare manager and Children’s Panel Member under her belt. Eileen is passionate about improving services for communities throughout the region and believes that third sector organisations have an integral role to play in the delivery of successful outcomes. Her vision is to see Dumfries and Galloway become a recognisable force in shaping the future voice of third sector organisations throughout Scotland. She said:

“It is important that all third sector organisations can access the help and support needed to maximise their potential and work in their community. When we work collaboratively and cohesively with statutory organisations, there is positive impact on services at all levels”.

Sam Johnston

Sam Johnston is no stranger to the third sector and this appointment will be another string to her bow. Sam has been involved in setting up and managing various volunteer projects within the region and has recently been appointed Chair of Nithsdale Local Rural Partnership. Sam has a working knowledge of the standards of community engagement and local community planning structures as well as knowledge of the Health & Social care Integration which is due to come into effect in April 2015. She believes in giving people the confidence and voice to raise concerns or complaints and the opportunity to feedback issues that affect them. She explains:

“I am very much the believer that the community voice is as important as the ones making decisions”.

With the integration of Health and Social Care taking place across the county, these forums will provide a unique opportunity for the local community to make a critical contribution to health and social care delivery in the region by ensuring essential services are joined up and locally responsible. Decisions taken at these forums will ultimately influence the formation of public policy, thereby giving third sector organisations a stake in the decision making process.

Six Thematic Forums have still to be established; one for each of the 6 priority areas in Dumfries and Galloway’s Single Outcome Agreement. This shared, explicit and binding plan represents the commitments from all partners to drive improvements in the quality of public service delivery in the region.

Third Sector, Dumfries and Galloway invited expressions of interest at the end of 2014 for 10 voluntary Conveners in total; four to cover all of the locality areas, as well as six for each of the thematic areas.

The overarching aim of the forums is to create a ‘collective voice’ for the third sector through the formation of a Strategic Forum. This would include the 10 Conveners and some Third sector representatives from the Community Planning Partnership. The Conveners will ensure that collaboration between all parties’ proceeds smoothly and key messages are fed into the Strategic Forum.

Third Sector, Dumfries and Galloway would be interested to hear from anyone who would be interested in convening any of the Thematic Forums.