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  • Natalia Piotrowska

Empowering Local Communities: Taking Control of Wellbeing

In light of party conferences early this month and Labour's vision of community power shifting from Westminster to local people, I want to delve into what is essential to make this happen, including how intergenerational practice and creativity can support this movement.

71% of people living in the UK feel like they have little or no power over the decisions being made over their neighbourhoods. I would like to address this statistic and explore how we can create healthier communities by taking into account the wants and needs of the people that are actively affected by the choices being made.

What Has Been Discussed

In recent reports and studies, a transition from person-centred to a community-centred approach in healthcare and wellbeing is being emphasised.

In the last month, the NHS Confederation released two reports exploring what is needed to develop a robust, resilient and thriving future for primary care. Reports looked into unlocking the power of health beyond hospitals and supporting communities to prosper.

One of the report recommends prioritising community spend to alleviate long-term pressure on the acute sector, enhance healthcare system productivity and provide patients with the care they deserve.

Person Centred to Community Centred Approach

The King’s Fund has an existing strategy for 2020-2024 focused on healthy communities and places. Their work revolves around strategising on how existing resources are utilised to provide the best health results for communities, drawing upon public services, voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector organisations and the strengths and assets of communities themselves.

The programme aims to bring about the following changes:

  1. Empowering communities to lead initiatives that enhance their health and care outcomes, focusing on what matters most to them.

  2. Enhancing collaboration and coordination between local authorities, the NHS and the voluntary and community sector to better address local needs.

  3. Shaping national policies, regulatory frameworks and funding mechanisms to support effective location-based initiatives.

  4. Swapping paternalism to mutualism can combat the struggles between a hierarchical approach to peoples’ health and wellbeing and the feeling of solutions being imposed on communities, creating the feeling of ‘us’ and ‘them’.

I believe that shifting the power dynamics and providing communities with more control of how their communities are shaped can only have a positive impact.

Through intergenerational creativity, we can work towards tackling ageism and providing spaces whereby intergenerational conversations can be celebrated and nurtured, reducing levels of loneliness and isolation experienced across all the different age groups.

The Community Power Act

We’re Right Here is a national campaign that advocates for a power shift to communities, so that local people can shape the places where they live. They have released a report called The Community Power Act to outline a proposal of what needs to be done in order to establish a community based approach to health and thriving communities.

The report advocates for the ‘doing with’ rather than the ‘doing to’ approach to combating health inequalities and re-claiming green spaces for communities to help them thrive. This would allow for easier access to resources to everyone, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The advantages of each right proposed are outlined in detail in the report.

Different People Same Place

A project conducted by Warwick and Birmingham Universities, in partnership with Spirit of 2012 and the Centre for Ageing Better delves deeper into the different aspects of individual and community wellbeing and how they are related through an extensive quantitative and qualitative data analysis of existing evidence. The model designed through the study caters to policymakers and practitioners striving to enhance community wellbeing. It assists in comprehending how interventions could have varying effects on individuals within the same area and in evaluating which types of interventions might influence individual and community wellbeing in distinct ways. You can read more about the study here.

A Labour Vision for Community Power

On the other end of the spectrum, we have an agenda proposed by the Labour Party on how the above changes could be implemented to regain community power.

The three areas of focus proposed are as follows:

  1. Building community power in neighbourhoods to take back meaningful control

  2. Shifting public services to prioritise prevention by making community power a reality

  3. A strategic centre organised around a vision for community power which builds prevention and resilience across the system

The agenda outlines how the work proposed would work towards achieving better health outcomes and refocus its work towards preventative measures. It also looks at how granting local people more power to work on their communities can be a key to ensuring resilience and the right resources to deal with crises.



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