Third Sector Plus™ is a model designed to engage local people, businesses and other stakeholders in the running of local services, particularly landscape maintenance and improvement work. It responds to the challenge by central government to localise services, whilst ensuring statutory requirements are always met. It also helps to release local authority resources at a time when they are facing ever-increasing funding challenges.
Volunteers and full-time employees are co-ordinated locally by our local management teams. This means the synergies of using volunteers to add value to local authority managed greenspaces is fully explored, to the benefit of the communities that use them. Guidance and support on local initiatives is provided by our national team of biodiversity, conservation management and community relations specialists.
One of our main objectives is to improve the areas we operate in and to this end we support charities and groups who play an active role in improving their local community. These organisations range from local sports clubs to large national charities. We offer financial assistance in the form of donations and sponsorship. In addition to this we make our resources and expertise available to assist them in projects they wish to undertake.
Budget constraints are a constant issue for many organisations and public bodies. Increasingly third sector organisations are utilised to assist with the management and delivery of community services with volunteers playing a vital role. We support a range of groups and local causes by donating time and resources to assist these organisations in their activities.
Our depot in Kendal, near the Lake District, regularly donates staff time to a variety of projects, supporting voluntary groups, communities and clients. With projects spearheaded by our Biodiversity and Community Relationships Co-ordinator we have assisted with the following schemes:Strimming paths on Brown Robin Nature Reserve for Cumbria Wildlife Trust
Donation of bedding plants and assistance with planting at Dean Gibson Primary School, Kendal
Donation of stripped out perennial bedding plants to John Ruskin Secondary School, Coniston
Removal of white goods from residents’ homes after the 2015 floods in Kendal
Free school holiday family fun sessions for local residents in Ulverston
Refurbishment of a shrub bed into a flower bed and teaching flower planting to local school children as part of the Windermere Holocaust Project
We regularly support local causes across the company by sponsorship and donations although our preferred method of support and engagement is by the assistance of our skilled staff supporting the community in which they live and work. We also offer training, often certificated, to the volunteers who work with us, improving their skills to support their personal and professional development.
We deliver a range of high-quality in-house training courses, providing our staff, volunteers and client managers easy access to relevant recognised skills and safety qualifications. This approach allows for a consistent approach to contract management by having client and contractor share the same formal skills training, and provides our volunteers with real-world qualifications that will benefit them outside of their volunteering role.
An important issue for all landowners, be they public, private or third sector, is biosecurity, including invasive non-native species (INNS). It is estimated that the annual cost of INNS to the British economy is around £1.7 billion pounds. There are around 2000 non-native species recorded in the UK. Although only a small number of these are invasive, or have a negative effect on the natural environment, the effect they do have can be devastating. As a grounds maintenance contractor, we regularly undertake control works for INNS for our clients, the most common being Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam removal. We are aware, however, that there are other species which are not as widespread at present, which may ultimately appear on the sites which we maintain. In response to this, we have introduced training and guides to help inform and educate our staff.
In 2016 staff and client officers from our contracts in the Lake District and Barrow-in-Furness attended training from the Cumbria Freshwater Invasive Non-Native Species initiative. Staff were introduced to the topic, including an outline of the species already present in Cumbria, and the threats present from surrounding areas. The training covered methodologies and timing of control to identify which, if any, were best to use to help mitigate or remove the problem species.
Species identification was a key part of the training, as was the biosecurity measures to be taken to ensure that we do not inadvertently facilitate any spread of INNS. Key client officers attended the sessions at no cost. This ensured that both we and the client received the best and consistent information.
From the feedback received from both the staff and the clients, the sessions were considered extremely useful and a great success. We have therefore employed the CFINNS project, a charitable body, to deliver the same training to the rest of our contracts, with the majority of depots receiving the training by the end of 2016. We have also scheduled compulsory training for all staff from supervisor level up to carry out e-learning modules created by the Non-Native Species Secretariat, to further embed this training. We have issued identification guides to all depots to be displayed for all staff, and all vans will be issued with a pocket guide for help in identifying species while out on site. We also use the iRecord app to send in reports of INNS sightings to the Biological Records Centre.
These methods, in conjunction with our development of a new company biosecurity policy, will ensure that we maintain a responsible approach to site management, provide our client with a knowledgeable and well-equipped workforce and help protect our natural environment from an ever-growing threat to biodiversity.