Following the recent Community Care article about Local Area Coordination in Thurrock, below is an extract from the follow up paper “Good Practice Local Area Coordination, Thurrock Council”
Long term reports and studies have shown the positive impact that Local Area Coordination can drive, through strong partnership working at the individual, family, community and service levels. This includes joint working with social workers, health, housing and community organisations.
It reinforces the importance of design integrity (fully designed, no short cuts or diluting roes and principles) and strong, integrated leadership across service partners.
Inclusive Neighbourhoods and the Local Area Coordination Network has valued the partnership with Thurrock Council and local stakeholders – great work.
In this extract, Rachel Carter talks with Frances Leddra, Principal Social Worker in Thurrock.
- Social work practice
The council says the scheme has made local knowledge and connections more available to social workers, and freed them up to concentrate on complex cases and specialisms, such as managing a mental health crisis. Equally, if a Local Area Coordinator is involved in a case that requires more professionalism, they are able to refer it onto a social worker.
“All the social workers and Local Area Coordinators know each other really well so it is just case of picking up the phone,” says Frances Leddra, principal social worker and strategic lead for safeguarding, complex care and social work at the council. “Local Area Coordination has opened up a whole world of community resources that social workers didn’t even know were there.”
This local knowledge has helped social workers find solutions to difficult cases. For example, one gentleman had repeatedly been referred to the safeguarding team due to self-neglect and misusing alcohol. The social work team referred him to the Local Area Coordinator, who spent time with him and helped him meet local people. He is now volunteering in his local community.
“This was a case that was just spiralling around social work for about two years with people not knowing what to do with him,” says Leddra. “The social work team and the Local Area Coordinator worked together to help this gentleman stop drinking and he is no longer known as a high risk safeguarding case.”
- Service users
The evaluation of the scheme found the coordinators had been successful in helping people find practical solutions to problems, which would otherwise require social services funded support. Examples included 19 people who were supported to find alternatives to local authority day care and 18 people who were supported to build links to their local communities through volunteering.
Other results included:
- Over 90 people recovering from mental health crisis re-engaged with their communities or family/friends, and in some cases this also reduced visits to their GP.
- 20 individuals accessed benefits they were entitled to, nine of which received more income helping them to live more comfortably.
- 16 individuals increased their physical exercise through linking with gyms or social groups
- One individual has volunteered to support the council’s workforce planning department to deliver training to student social workers on his experience of living with depression.
Key to success
Being clear about the boundaries of the L0cal Area Coordinator role and how it differs from the responsibilities of a social worker has been key to making the scheme a success, according to Leddra.
“We were very aware in the beginning that if we didn’t get that right and we didn’t involve our social workers in the whole thinking around asset-based community development, then it might actually be seen as some sort of threat.”
Engaging the community from day-one has also been important and a series of away days were held by participating agencies, to help people look at need from a more strength-based approach.
Changing the way the council thinks about working with communities. “Our immediate teams who work with the Local Area Coordinators have really embraced the scheme but there are still other areas where we need to do a bit more work,” says Leddra.
Cost and savings
The first three Local Area Coordinator posts were funded by the council’s core budget for adult social care. This was achievable as a result of a service restructure, which saw some vacant social care fieldwork posts deleted and more social workers and senior practitioners recruited. The posts cost the council the same as a band six social worker or occupational therapist – approximately £40,000 per year.
A further three posts have been funded by public health grants, on the basis Local Area Coordinators also improve the health and wellbeing of individuals by working with them.
One post is jointly funded by the Essex Fire and Rescue service.
The final three posts are currently funded by the Better Care Fund.