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Rotherham Together Partnership Blog - Ruth Willis

Published: Tuesday, 24th July 2018

Ruth WIllis, Chief executive of South Yorkshire’s Community Foundation

Ruth WIllis, Chief executive of South Yorkshire’s Community Foundation

I started my new job at South Yorkshire’s Community Foundation (SYCF) in April 2013, over five years ago.

Throughout my time here I have witnessed and experienced the resolve of the communities within Rotherham and across the region. One thing that I have observed is that Rotherham has a lot to offer and has in the past maybe not shouted enough about what it is doing and what it can do. Early on I met Janet Wheatley and all her colleagues at VAR, saw the fantastic work that they were doing; and am pleased to say that SYCF works in partnership with VAR in tackling issues of deprivation, lack of aspiration and opportunity. SYCF supports community groups in Rotherham to carry out their work through awarding community grants and funding advice.

I did a presentation to the Full Council when the CSE issues made the headlines late in 2014 about the Fund that SYCF were setting up to show our commitment to funding community groups who were specifically working with victims and survivors of CSE. The reception that I received was welcoming and positive, it was clear that there was willingness at that time to tackle the issues going forward. Rotherham MBC agreed to commit £20k to the Fund as well as funding directly two other Rotherham based organisations working with survivors of CSE. Eight out of the eighteen groups which benefitted from the Fund were based in Rotherham. Over a 1,000 people were supported by this Fund. Our evaluation of the Fund is now available on our website –

Due to my personal commitment to improving and supporting Rotherham I joined the Women in Business Group 3 years ago and through this relationship SYCF has forged many links with the business community in Rotherham and I have personally made many friends. Their events bring people together across Rotherham to celebrate what is good about Rotherham whilst providing through its membership a real insight into issues and solutions on the ground.

I met with both Sharon Kemp and Councillor Chris Reid at the beginning of their tenure in my role as CEO of South Yorkshire’s Community Foundation. They inherited Rotherham as a town still reeling from the revelations of the Alexis Jay Report and still trying to understand how and why such a thing could happen. It threatened to tarnish the reputation of Rotherham and its communities forever.

I have through being a member of the Rotherham Together Partnership (RTP), which I joined at its inception as a voluntary and community sector representative, seen the way that they, with the Commissioners have steered and navigated their way through the extremely difficult times that Rotherham is experiencing. Throughout their leadership, and all of Rotherham’s immense challenges, the people of Rotherham have demonstrated their resolve, determination and dedication to ensure a positive future for Rotherham. The last Rotherham Together Partnership meeting highlighted a range of fantastic actions that have been taken by the Local Authority and its partners particularly those in the business and health sectors. It is extremely encouraging to see that the social impact of these actions can now be clearly evidenced.

Being a member of the RTP representing the VCS has been a privilege and I have met so many dedicated people who believe passionately in Rotherham’s future. The Partnership just needs to ensure that everyone in Rotherham knows about these improvements and initiatives. I for one will do all that I can to ensure that this happens.