A service which has saved Milton Keynes Council on average £2.5 million per year is set to be drastically reduced due to funding cuts.
Community Action:MK, a charity which co-ordinates voluntary events around Milton Keynes, currently provides community mobilisers to eight areas in the city – to support people and organisations and develop local groups.
But from September, areas such as Fishermead, Netherfield and Stantonbury will no longer benefit from the service.
A report by Bruce Fenning, an expert in social return on investment, in June estimated that the community mobiliser service brings a return of £8.15 for every £1 of investment.
Robbie Macpherson, chief operating officer for Community Action:MK, understands that cuts need to be made, but believes the decision will prove costly.
He said: “It is a large amount of money we are losing and it will have a huge impact on the work we do. We offer a sort of preventative service before further council services are needed.
“They do have make cuts somewhere, but I think in the longer term, they are going to have more demand on the council’s services as a result.”
Community Mobilisers, or CMs, who have been working in the communities of Milton Keynes for the past 12 years, are due to be removed from many of their current communities from September 2015, due to cessation of MK Council funding.
Community Mobilisers, a service offered by Community Action: MK (CA:MK), are unique to this area, with no role such as this found in any other place in the UK. Milton Keynes was pioneering in terms of the approach and CA:MK have been delivering this approach for the last 12 years.
“We are able to provide support for communities in a flexible and unique way. By enabling individuals and groups to access services, develop their skills and grow in confidence, we’ve encouraged local people to take action in their community and to solve local issues.” – Tim Marren, CEO at CA:MK.
Since 2003, CMs have been active in 16 communities many of which are considered the most deprived areas of the city. In these areas thousands of people and organisations have been supported to reach their potential, start up new local groups and contribute to their community.
An Open University article published in 2013 described CMs as “integral to promoting community cohesion between community members”. The paper also noted that residents, parents and community stakeholders described CMs as “the glue that brings communities together”. A recent report by Bruce Fenning, an expert in social return on investment, estimated that the CM service brings a return of at least £8.15 for every £1 invested. This means that the gain from MK Council’s investment has been worth £2.5 million per year to Milton Keynes.
“The CM programme is an invaluable service that brings people together and acts as a kingpin of the community” – Resident
With their unique model of community development, Community Mobilisers have enabled hundreds of residents’ voices to be heard. Since 2012 a unique mobile app has been used to log, report and analyse conversations with residents. Around 20,000 issues, interests, ideas and positive stories have been captured, the effect of this has been wide-reaching and influential in MK, changing local service provision, affecting local decisions and starting up community led projects.
The future is unclear for this vital provision. Many options are being explored to maintain the Community Mobiliser service, and although this may look different in times to come Community Action: MK hope to be able to retain the frontline role which has so successfully promoted community-led development across the city in the past.
“For over 12 years communities have been energised and empowered by the wonderful Community Mobiliser service. CA:MK is so proud of all that communities have achieved with the CMs. We are actively working with partners and agencies across Milton Keynes to ensure new and older communities alike continue to be strengthened through building on such a solid foundation. We have the proof that this is a hugely effective and economic success story which is just too good to lose.” – Sheila Thornton, Chair of Trustees for CA:MK
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01908 661 623.
We recently asked Bruce Fenning, an expert on Social Return On Investment (SROI), to have a look at the difference our Community Mobiliser service makes in Milton Keynes. There’s lots of interesting he came back with, including that the return on the Council’s investment over is over £9 for each pound they spent. Over five years, the financial impact adds up to over £10 million! To read the full report, click here to download it.