Reducing the pressure on services – A totally different way of looking at things

Kim Haworth

Kim Haworth

Written by Kim Haworth, Central Lancashire Area Commissioning Manager

Central Lancashire has a population of around 425k and in my role as Area Commissioning Manager I am responsible for working with a range of stakeholders including health colleagues, borough and city councils and individuals that support the thousands of people who make up this population.  People often hear the word support and see it as a negative or if not a negative, something that doesn’t relate to them but rather relates to someone less able than themselves. In my experience support is something we all need throughout our lifetime and at certain times we need it more than others. It is my job to ensure that the services and supports we provide in Lancashire meet the needs and wants of our communities; getting people the right services, at the right time and in the right place for them.

One of the big challenges we, like many other regions, face is a growing demand for and increased pressure on our services.  We strongly believe that the solution to this is in building more resilient, better connected communities and we have taken an approach that has not yet been used anywhere else in the country. It is a pioneering approach to consultation and community connecting and it is based on the person-centred thinking principles of one-page profiles and mixed with the age old concept of throwing a great party! A winning combination.

We had four main aims when creating Community One-Page Profiles:

1)      To celebrate the gifts skills and talents that make our communities special.

2)      To develop a pool of resource from the gifts skills and talents of people living in our communities with the aim of connecting them with others that they could then support.

3)      To find out what is important to people .

4)      To find out what good support is.

It isn’t a groundbreaking list of objectives in itself and actually it is probably what most consultation exercises aim to achieve. But it is the way we planned to achieve it that has brought us success, strengthened our communities, empowered individuals and clearly directed us in terms of what support we need to provide, where, when and to whom.

How did we do it? Well we threw a party of course. Actually not just one party – we threw around 20 parties and invited people from all sections of society. In most cases we linked up with local community groups. In every instance we had  the essential party fare (balloons, music , cake) but the twist was that we also brought along a huge pinboard made up like a one-page profile with the key sections; what you like and admire about your community, what is important to you and how best to support you.

Everyone at the parties contributed to the one-page profiles; they told us what was important to them such as good transport links, friendly neighbours and accessible shops. They told us how we could support them well, such as better community initiatives specifically designed for men. They also told us what they liked and admired about their communities and furthermore we looked at what people liked and admired about them as individuals – after all they are the community. From this last list we were able to develop a pool of assets that we could then use to help build resilience within our communities. Someone was identified as being a great baker. Someone else a wonderful listener. Someone else great fun to be with. Each one of these gifts and talents could then be used to support lonely, isolated or vulnerable people within the community. Not only did this approach strengthen  the community and build relationships but it resulted in reduced pressure on services too, enabling them to focus resources on providing the other support that we identified on the one-page profiles as important;  A really powerful example of people directing their own support.

We’ve held over 20 parties and created more than 20 community profiles in the last 10 months and because of this initial success we’ve planned a further 17. The community one-page profiles are on display in public areas and people feel a real sense of ownership over them. It has meant that rather than coming up with a list of problems and issues as is what so often comes out of a consultation, people have come up with celebrations and solutions – a totally different way of looking at things.

As someone who has worked in learning disabilities and with person-centred thinking tools my whole life I really was surprised when I first moved to  older adult care and saw how little person-centred tools were used. My team and I have been working really hard to embed these tools with our partners and the support providers that we work with and introducing one-page profiles within communities to build resilience just seemed like the next logical step.

I strongly believe that this method of consultation and delivery is a formula that could work well throughout the country.  I’d like to see it used in other communities and by other organisations to empower people to direct their own support and uncover the gifts of individuals that can reduce the pressures on our services.

You can see an example of a community one-page profile here.