Change that leads to better lives

Community Support and Social Care: A new reality

CLS Report social media 692 320

Introducing Community Led Support’s Evidence & Learning Briefing Papers

In these surreal, unpredictable, and troubling times it may seem strange publishing these papers from the Community Led Support Programme, but arguably they are more important now than ever. The essence of Community Led Support (CLS) is that local people and community organisations work alongside councils and health bodies to determine how best people can get the support and care they need. Each party has a role to play, building on what they do best, sharing resources, expertise, knowledge and strengths. Never have these things mattered more than during COVID-19.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve heard how many of the CLS building blocks of strength-based approaches, a culture of trust within and across organisations and minimal bureaucracy and brave leadership are now paying dividends.

During our continued support to CLS network members they’ve told us that:

“All of the work to develop and build is now paying dividends and supporting resilience”;

“The existing relationship with the community has been really helpful in this crisis”; “Community groups are already connected through CLS so we’ve done some great groundwork”

“While a number of elements of our change programme have been suspended as part of our response to COVID-19, frontline colleagues have emphasised that embedding a strengths-based approach and supporting this practice across teams is arguably now more important than ever!”

Relationships that have been built up over time between public sector organisations and local third sector teams and community groups are coming into their own and resulting in greater flexibility and capacity. By sharing resources and working together with a common aim, swifter and coordinated responses have been possible which are directly making a difference to those most in need, providing much needed supplies to those who are isolated or self-isolating, who need to be shielded and supported.

Over the last few weeks we’ve seen countless community organisations working with health and social care teams to support those on the shielded lists, in cities and the most rural and isolated areas, liaising with local businesses with food surpluses and school meals services, for example, collecting and redistributing food that would otherwise be wasted; virtual clinics and friendship groups have been set up and staff are finding creative ways to support family carers needing a break. So many people going the extra mile, working tirelessly, using their initiative.

The overriding sentiment is that there is so much learning to be captured and a real will not to lose it, and not go back to old ways that didn’t work so well. How our health and social care bodies continue to work together and with their communities, based on trusting relationships (not service specifications), listening to them about what is needed going forward and not trying to control them will be crucial. We hope a new reality will emerge which harnesses and brings together the strengths of all the various groups working in the interests of communities, freeing local people and professionals up to do what they do best whilst joining up process where needed and getting rid of it where it’s not.

This set of reports describes how Community Led Support results in benefits for people, building on those strong connections for local communities, as well as impacts on the public purse. But most importantly, right now, the ability to respond in coordinated ways, pooling the strengths of all those working to support people locally, stretching resources to last longer and go further, helping people stay well, keeping safe and connected.

The learning from this current crisis will continue to inform how Community Led Support evolves in the future and how we build on the fantastic work happening now. Our thanks and admiration go to all who are working so hard at present in communities and across services, and who have shaped and extended the application of Community Led Support to make it the engine for change that it is; never has it been more needed.

Jenny Pitts and Helen Bown

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