During this period of great concern, we’re taking time to reflect on the power of the communities that Local Area Coordinators serve. In our series entitled “it’s all about” we will explore some moving and incredible stories from the past year of people who have moved closer to their vision of a good life and started making their contribution in their community.
All the stories are real, names and some details have been changed to ensure anonymity.
It’s all about….being present, approachable and flexible!
Local Area Coordinators are employed by local authorities but are quite deliberately rooted in and alongside the communities they serve. You are far more likely to bump in to one in a food bank, a library, a church hall or a community centre than you are in a civic centre, a council hub or a town hall. Basically, wherever people are, they are, busily building positive relationships with individuals, families, groups, associations and organisations.
Working like this is a key aspect of the Local Area Coordination approach. It helps them to be visible, approachable and most importantly a highly flexible source of local support. For instance, if someone in the community is worried about a fellow resident but doesn’t know where to turn, a Local Area Coordinator can be a really good person to chat with. Being known by all in the community means they are able to build connections with people who in some cases may be facing crisis. They encourage people to explore their vision of a good life, their personal and local networks of support and the practical action needed to prevent things from getting worse. This means they are also reducing a need for costly, external and avoidable service interventions in people’s lives, supporting them instead to make their contribution and build connections with their community. This benefits everyone concerned; a truly whole person, whole community, whole service system approach.
The logic of permitting Local Area Coordinators to be present, approachable and flexible is beautifully highlighted in Dave’s (not his real name) story below:
Hazel, a Local Area Coordinator, met Dave at a food bank after a volunteer Hazel knew suggested she introduce herself to him. He appeared very withdrawn, he was shaking and seemed unwell. It transpired that he was struggling with serious headaches and deteriorating mental health. He was also grieving the loss of his brother. He was divorced, with two grown up children and his relationship with them had broken down. He only had a couple of acquaintances. All of this pressure was impacting on his work and income. He had little money and was on the brink of destitution.
Hazel and Dave got to know each other over a series of meetings and began to build a trusting relationship together. She walked alongside Dave as he sought what he needed from both the mental health team and his GP. He was struggling to get what he was looking for and felt that this was making his health worse and he was having suicidal thoughts. Hazel helped Dave access the information he needed to explore his rights around changing his GP practice so he could get the support he was looking for and identify positive ways to get the most out of his meetings with the mental health team. They also explored welfare rights and found some discretionary funding to support Dave during his hardship.
Through finding a new GP, Dave was able to be seen by a consultant who told him he needed oxygen in order to reduce his headaches. As a result of his employer not agreeing to make reasonable adjustments for his health, Dave was dismissed from work. However through an introduction from Hazel and advice given by ACAS he was able to challenge the decision though and settle out of court.
Hazel supported Dave to connect with a community employment organisation. Dave was eventually able to gain self-employment as a delivery driver, something he had identified as a perfect job for him. He has paid off his rent arrears and nearly cleared his council tax arrears. In terms of his health, Dave managed to stop taking pain relief medication. He is managing his cluster headaches with the oxygen and is feeling much better and stronger.
Some months on Dave has sustained his driving job and is loving it. He is socialising with his work mates, has remained debt free and is now saving money. He has maintained his connection with family and sees them more often. His cluster headaches have reduced to the point where they no longer concern him.
He currently does not need to see Hazel regularly but knows she is present in the community, approachable and flexible should his mental health dip again or he just needs a cuppa and chat.