On the 22nd March 2022 two citizens of the City of York, Glynn and Steve, generously shared their stories and reflections on the relationship they have built with their Local Area Coordinator Penny.
Glynn was introduced to Penny by a local counsellor following a bereavement and a period of social isolation and poor health. Through their relationship together they focussed on his vision of a good life and Glynn went on to achieve some life-changing outcomes around his health, housing and connections. He achieved this in part through what he describes as the “domino effect” of positive change through Local Area Coordination. In his clip he comments “it’s like me being in control of my life again, whereas before I was controlled by a letter box, waiting for a letter to come through and act upon it”. He concludes with a powerful observation saying “it’s like getting your confidence back, being a person and being in control again.” Powerful testimony from a very inspirational man.
In Steve’s story we hear how with his Local Area Coordinator Penny alongside him he was able to settle into a new community and move closer towards his vision of a good life following a difficult time.
During lockdown Steve moved into the community that Penny is alongside. The change for Steve followed a very difficult period. He didn’t know anyone in the new community, felt isolated and it started to get him down. He and Penny connected together through an introduction from another Local Area Coordinator from the community Steve used to live in. Together they took the time to identify Steve’s strengths and what was going to be important for him in this new chapter of his life. This included being able to access a new GP surgery (Steve has cerebral palsy) which they did with a practice walk identifying the low walls that Steve could hold on to. Throughout their relationship they also looked at other concerns such as paperwork and repair issues and connecting with others. The story is one of a powerful partnership with Steve in the driving seat and Penny alongside him. Steve remarks “what was important for me, and for Penny, was to get along together and work as a team…there’s many a time I’ve rung Penny and there’s many a time she’s helped no matter what”. He concludes by saying “I feel relaxed and I feel contented”. Amazing achievements by Steve!
On the 23rd March 2022, the Leaders of Local Area Coordination from across our Network gathered together in York for our first face to face meeting since the pandemic. On the day we took the opportunity to gather people’s reflections on Local Area Coordination through a series of conversations that you can watch here. Our aim is that these videos help explain some of the core features and principles of Local Area Coordination from the perspective of those leading it across our Network.
It’s all about good lives
Local Area Coordination starts with a simple yet powerful question “what is your vision of a good life?”. In this clip Andrea from Haringey comments on this saying how the good life conversation “strips away anything to do with criteria or services or fixing anything…the answer to the question is rooted in the essence of that person”. Jon from Swansea reflects on this saying this is about “what matters to you and how can we help you achieve that for yourself…we’re not doing to people, we’re helping people do for themselves”. By working from a set of principles instead of targets, Local Area Coordinators are helping people identify and overcome any hurdles getting in the way of their good life vision. They do this by helping people take the practical steps needed to reconnect with their strengths, tap in to any support they need and to ultimately become connected, resilient citizens of their communities.
It’s not a service
It can be hard to describe Local Area Coordination, but one thing is for sure, it’s not a service. Whilst the role of Local Area Coordinators is deeply connected within the health, social care, housing etc. service system, their work remains separate from it. This means they can act as a bridge between services and community. We describe this as having a ‘foot in two worlds’, a useful position, especially when helping people who are navigating through the service system or looking to build their independence. By working in this non service orientated way, we see people not requiring formal services as much, instead they locate natural and sustainable solutions from within themselves, their own networks and their local community. As a result, our services are better equipped and protected for when they are really needed. Jim from Wakefield comments on this saying “in the longer term, more acute and critical care services are less relied upon…there’s a place for them, but it’s a more proportionate place”.
It’s all about relationships
So, if Local Area Coordination is not a service what is it then? Well, at its heart is a relationship between a Local Area Coordinator rooted in a local community and a local person or family who they are alongside. It’s about taking the time to really understand someone’s a vision for a good life and then acting on what matters to them together. This requires allowing time for trust to be formed between the Local Area Coordinator and the person they’re alongside. It also requires an understanding of that person’s current and potential relationships with their family, their networks and wider community too and helping people build or rebuild those connections, if that’s what they want. In this clip, Claire from Havering comments on this very different approach saying “people who’ve used services for years are responding in a different way and saying “I’m used to people leaving me by now or I’m used to people walking out, but you’re still here!” It’s about making sure people know that we believe in them and they are able to change their own lives and get the lives they want for themselves.
It’s about being in and of the community
Community life is central to the Local Area Coordination approach. Local Area Coordinators are rooted in and alongside hyper local communities (with populations around 8-10K). This means they become a known, trusted, well connected and accessible source of support for people to connect with and draw upon as and when needed. Introductions to the Local Area Coordinator can come from anyone and anywhere so there is no formal referral or assessment process, just that first conversation with a focus on getting to know each other and understanding someone’s vision of a good life and what steps they need to take to get there. Being in and of the community reduces a likelihood of people having to wait in crisis and isolation whilst things get worse for them which would then lead to them coming into contact with the system at a point where they would require more formal statutory intervention. To achieve a solid knowledge of local, natural supports and opportunities, Local Area Coordinators really put the energy and time into getting to know the people and assets of the local place they serve. In this clip Karen Dobson from Thurrock comments “we find out so much good stuff going on”. Jon from Swansea adds “there’s some fantastic things going on in our communities, it’s just not known about…Local Area Coordinators have been able to facilitate that connection.” Ultimately, Local Area Coordination is all about working together with the whole person and whole family in the context of their whole life, whole community and the whole connected service system that surrounds them. Being in and of the community is an essential feature of making that happen.
It’s about being a family: The Local Area Coordination Network
Designing, developing and sustaining Local Area Coordination is not easy, but that’s why the Local Area Coordination Network of areas already doing it exists in order to support and learn from each other. In this clip many of the leaders of Local Area Coordination in different parts of the country comment on the value they see as working together as a Network. Karen from Thurrock comments that “it gives us that credibility that we belong to something bigger and that we’re on a national platform”. Anna from Leicestershire reflects on the system pressures that sometimes work against Local Area Coordination and how the Network helps areas “not branch off into something that we shouldn’t be and keep us focussed on the people and communities that we work in”. Tamsin from Kirklees sees the Network as a space to “solve problems together, talk about our successes and think creatively”. Sarah from Derby comments on the passion for social justice and doing things differently that she sees as a consistent value running through all those involved. Joe from York rounds this clip off by saying “I always describe it as being a family…the culture is so generous…it’s been one of the best things we’ve ever joined”.
Local Area Coordination is developed through an intentional design process supported by Community Catalysts, the home of Local Area Coordination in England and Wales and the convenors of the Local Area Coordination Network. If you’d value a conversation about how to get this started where you are and to be part of this movement for change then please do get in touch.
Thanks to www.curlewfilms.com for producing the video.