Creating the Conditions for Health and Wellbeing to Thrive, a New Approach for the NHS?

Becky Booth, CEO of innovative social enterprise Spice, a C4CC partner, has written a guest blog for us, following their publication of a report measuring the impact of Spice’s work in developing Time Credit systems for communities and public sectors.

At Spice we were heartened to see special mention of the role of communities and volunteering in Simon Steven’s Five Year Forward View and are keen to see how this is developed by the NHS and partners in coming years. As a C4CC partner we are pleased to be working with partners who share this vision for creating health and wellbeing as a root method to develop a sustainable health and care system.

We work across the UK to engage people in the design and delivery of public services and support them to take a more active role in their communities. Whether that’s with schools, local authorities, housing associations or local people working with their community anchor organisation, Spice Time Credits increase active engagement, reduce dependency and build community and individual esteem.

The Spice model works on a simple basis. For every hour a person gives to their community or service they earn a printed Time Credit which can then be spent in that community or across the Spice network nationally. Spend partners include adult education colleges, leisure centres and larger heritage sites such as Tower of London.

We recently published a new evaluation report that demonstrates the impact that Time Credits is having for some of the UK’s most disadvantaged citizens, supporting them to be involved in their communities, many for the very first time. A range of key health benefits are also emerging as a result of this involvement with people reporting less use of formal health and care services and improved health and wellbeing. Over the last few years, our external evaluators, Apteligen, have surveyed over a 1000 members, 300 professional staff, run 33 workshops, conducted 25 interviews and facilitated 40 organisational workshops.

One of the exciting sets of findings from our recent evaluation has been seeing how Time Credits is encouraging individuals and communities to support one another. Consistently across our programme individuals describe how Time Credits has given them new support structures, enabled them to make new friends and use their skills and talents to help other people.

“I was socially isolated, suffering with depression and low confidence…Then I got involved with ACE and everything changed for the better.” (Time Credits member)

“I feel part of a supportive community with active and motivated people that I enjoy being with and who make a huge difference to the community. They are excellent mentors and role models to me and my children.” (Time Credits member)

The outcomes of this positive change is demonstrated throughout the evaluation findings:

– 81 per cent said Time Credits have a had a positive impact on their quality of life
– 60 per cent said their level of social contact has increased as a result of Time Credits
– 48 per cent of respondents reported being more likely to get important needs met because they are part of a local community.
– 13 per cent have started a new community group since being involved with Time Credits
– 23 per cent report having less need to go to the doctor

These results are not just important for individual’s happiness, health and wellbeing, but also for the way that we design and deliver our public services.

Designing services that facilitate peer support and self-management is critical to prevention programmes. As Wendy Lansdown from one of our council partners, Cambridgeshire County Council describes,

“Research shows us that professionals are not always the right people to provide help and support. Help from local community peers, with a clear mechanism for their support and training, can be far more effective in reaching people who may need help but who do not come forward to ask for help from professional services….The findings give evidence for one of the most powerful effects I have witnessed with Time Credits – connecting people – both in terms of individuals, combating social isolation and helping people to know others in their community.”

For the last 12 months Spice has been working in partnership with Buckinghamshire County Council to deliver their ‘Prevention Matters’ programme. Prevention Matters is targeted at adults who are not yet eligible for social care services and aims to help them stay independent by linking them into community activities, groups and services depending on their individual needs and interests.

Half of the 2860 referrals have identified social isolation as a primary reason for the referral. The Time Credits are supporting those referred to not only to receive support from others but enabling them to contribute to other individuals and the wider community. For example, Pat is volunteering at a community café and has begun organising group trips to spend Time Credits, with volunteers contributing their spare Time Credits to enable other customers and friends to join them.

“I have enjoyed socializing with other volunteers and being able to treat customers and friends who normally don’t go to the theatre. Using Time Credits stops it seeming like we’re offering Charity.”

For individuals and staff taking part in Time Credit programmes, being able to develop new support networks is key to strengthening individual and collective resilience. As one member describes,

“I feel that Time Credits have taken me places that I haven’t seen before…It has helped me to gain confidence in myself and improve the way I now live my life. Through Time Credits I have made lots of new friends.”

Looking forward we see huge potential in aligning our work with the ‘formal’ health and care economy and we know from experience that everyone benefits when proven systems like Time Credits, which are people powered and asset based, are integrated with formal services.

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