Local Area Coordination was introduced to the UK by Inclusive Neighbourhoods after proving successful in Australia. With a strong person-centred approach, some powerful stories are now emerging from Local Area Coordination sites across the UK and following the release of a new report by the Centre for Welfare Reform, Ralph Broad, Director of Inclusive Neighbourhoods writes a guest blog for us on how and why it works – and how you can get involved…
On Tuesday 10 August the new report on Local Area Coordination in England and Wales was published by the Centre for Welfare Reform. It shares individual stories over the past three years, reflecting parts of the journey alongside local people and communities, as they build and pursue their dreams and vision for a good life.
It illustrates the power of this very “human” approach to supporting individuals, families and communities to build a better life, reduce the need for (or dependence on) services and the possibilities for wider service reform.
Local Area Coordination is about citizenship for all – focusing on helping individuals and their families to stay strong in their community, nurturing opportunities for contribution, building more welcoming, inclusive and supportive communities and building more personal, local, flexible, and connected services.
We are hugely grateful to some amazing people for welcoming us into their lives and sharing their stories – a privilege and inspiring.
Starting from the start
Rather than waiting for people to fall into crisis, assessing their deficits, testing eligibility and fitting them into a pre determined range of services, it starts from the start, thinking about (person by person) gifts, skills, local solutions and helping people build and pursue their vision for a good life.
Roger (Local Area Coordinator) was introduced to Maggie by the local Mental Health team following the loss of her husband some months before. Maggie had lost self-confidence and connections leaving her feeling isolated and overwhelmed, as a result this led to a couple of hospital admissions.
A focus on strengths, rather than need
Roger met with Maggie at home and talked to her about her gifts, skills, talents and interests and went on to support her to access and connect with activities taking place in her local community.
Finding and nurturing community assets/resources
Some months earlier Roger had met a group of ladies who all shared a common experience of having cared for loved ones dependent on drugs and alcohol. Together they talked and shared their ideas, agreeing to work together to help expand the reach of the group. Roger introduced Maggie to the group.
Making the most of life, rather than focusing on services and end of life
These early connections proved to be incredibly important some months later when following some tests Maggie was diagnosed with having lung cancer. The prognosis wasn’t good and the focus of services moved to end of life planning. During this time Roger supported Maggie to navigate the service system, whilst maintaining and building the links with her community and her new found friends.
Reducing need for services and support
The last few months have proved difficult for Maggie, but through the support of Roger and her community connections, she has felt strong enough to decline the offer of supported accommodation and has reduced some elements of her care package. This happened when she left the funded citywide luncheon club in favour of spending time with her neighbours and friends in her local community.
Moving from Recipient of Services to contributor to community
The links made have also provided Maggie with an opportunity to contribute something back to her community. At a recent lunch she met Jim, another person being supported by Roger who had experienced a number of falls as a result of his Multiple Sclerosis. Jim talked about the need to contact primary care for a cushion to ease the pain of a bruised Coccyx, (something that Roger had been trying to sort out over the course of that day). When she got home, using her gift as a seamstress, Maggie very quickly sewed a ring cushion and asked Roger to pass this on.
As we speak Maggie is currently making plans with her friends to go on a day trip, whilst this will not change her diagnosis what we do know is that through the support of the Local Area Coordinator, Maggie feels in control and, as a result, her community is a better place.
How do we know it works?
In line with long term studies and evidence, Local Area Coordination in England and Wales is showing that, where designed well and driven by strong, contributing leadership (from services and communities), there are highly consistent and positive outcomes.
It leads to significant improvements in the lives of citizens and communities.
It creates significant efficiencies and cost savings, even at this early stage in its development.
It reduces demand for social care, health and other public services.
How do we start?
Contact Ralph at the Local Area Coordination Network – it all starts with a conversation.
The Local Area Coordination Network leads the development of Local Area Coordination in England and Wales and is developing a “community of practice and support” in partnership with members of the Network.
To contact Ralph email him here