Engaging and Empowering Communities

I was delighted to speak at the November 2016 launch of Engaging and Empowering Communities: A Shared Commitment and Call to Action – an initiative headed up by Think Local Act Personal (TLAP) but co-authored by the Coalition for Collaborative Care, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, the Local Government Association, Public Health England, the Association of Directors of Public Health, the Department of Health and NHS England.

The document is a sector-wide commitment to developing and nurturing strong communities, something very close to our hearts in C4CC.  We know that things need to change- councils, clinical commissioning groups and doctors can’t ‘prescribe’ wellbeing- it comes from having friends, family, social contact and support, being able to get out and about, having the opportunity to do something for others and feeling valued for our contributions through paid and unpaid work or being part of a group.

With our partners, the Coalition for Collaborative Care wants to see a shift away from ‘What’s the matter with you?’ to ‘What matters to you?’ by local people and organisations coming together to nurture and build on the assets in local communities, reducing loneliness and social isolation, increasing community resilience and enabling people to take control of managing their  health.

This is something very personal to me as chair of my local Timebank in Reading, covering a diverse and thriving community in the Oxford Road area of the town. I have seen powerful examples of how the Timebanking model keeps previously isolated people, often people with multiple medical conditions, connected to others in their community in a positive way.  From what we know about the work carried out by C4CC partners Timebanking UK and Spice we know that people are likely to be less reliant on health services and more expensive interventions as a result of their involvement in community activity.  See the London School of Economics report that I was involved in, and Spice’s recent impact assessment here.

Whether through Timebanking or other innovative approaches, we need to drive forward on this agenda, particularly at a time when resources are stretched in the public sector.  It’s therefore fantastic that national sector leaders have been prepared to sign up for a paradigm shift in how we support citizens, families, people, to live happy and healthy lives.

Another key landmark, was this week’s publication of the conclusions of the Realising the Value (RTV) programme, undertaken by Nesta and the Health Foundation and funded by NHS England.

This builds the evidence base for person and community-centred approaches to health and wellbeing and how they can be developed across the country.

To quote from its key findings:  “The most successful examples of person – and community-centred approaches in practice are those that are developed by people and communities, working with and alongside commissioners and policymakers to build on existing assets and co-produce solutions that work.”

I hope that health professionals, providers, commissioners and those in charge of implementing local Sustainability and Transformation Plans will read the report and take on board its 10 key actions, and work with local authorities, the voluntary sector and local people to make the fine aims in our shared commitment happen in reality.

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