Many charitable and not-for-profit organisations and their volunteers support our overstretched health and social care sectors, by providing services that support people’s health and wellbeing. This might be through providing social activities and befriending, or practical help, such as offering transport to hospital appointments or enabling people to be discharged from hospital sooner that they would otherwise.

Alongside this, GP surgeries also offer patients access to ‘social prescribers’ or ‘link workers’, whose roles are to connect patients to charities and organisations in their communities that can support their health and wellbeing.

Voluntary sector organisations are so important, and yet, many are concerned with sustainability and the on-going challenges of securing long term funding.

During the first lockdown, researchers from the University of Kent, Brighton and Sussex Medical School and the University of Surrey, carried out a study looking at community-based volunteering in response to COVID-19 called the COV-VOL project.

Funded through the National Institute of Health and Social Care (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration Kent, Surrey and Sussex, the researchers, found that VCFSE (voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise) organisations provided services which had a positive effect on the physical, social and mental wellbeing of older people as well as the volunteers supporting them, and that they also had further positive impact on the wider health and social care system.

However, they also discovered that few organisations were able to demonstrate and highlight the difference their work had made to the lives of those they helped, the benefit to the volunteers; or to wider health and social care provision. With continued pressures on funding, the research team also heard how concerned organisations were about on-going sustainability and the significant time and resource it took in order to demonstrate impact and secure their future.

In response, the team developed a second project - also funded by the NIHR ARC KSS - to develop and test a free, interactive and on-line user-friendly ‘toolkit’, providing a set of resources that can assist VCFSE organisations to demonstrate the impact and value of their services and activities.

The CAVEAT (Community and Voluntary organisation EvAluation Toolkit) – which will be launched later this month (June) - aims to help organisations to collect and record data and information, allowing them to measure outcomes and demonstrate impact. CAVEAT also offers guidance on the many different ways that this information can be collected and presented

Sarah Carpenter, public member at ARC KSS and part of the Advisory group for the CAVEAT study and an artist, designer and researcher, said:

"Being a part of the advisory group for CAVEAT makes me feel listened to and heard. It is empowering to feel equal and to think that I may be helping towards making change for the better.

"As a neurodivergent human, feeling like an insider when it often feels like the system is ineffective and a barrier to you, I am given a sense of hope, knowing that there are people who are passionate about driving change. This helps with my mental well-being".

In this video, Sarah talks about her role in the CAVEAT study and explains why she wanted to get involved, what her contribution has been so far, and what her hopes are for this project.

The CAVEAT Toolkit is being launched on 28 June 2023, and a link to the Eventbrite can be found here. For further information on the event and the Toolkit, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., from Kent Surrey Sussex Academic Health Science Network.

For further information about the CAVEAT project please contact: Dr Julie Macinnes, University of Kent.

Recite Me Accessibility Tools