Today we shared our our latest learning in a webinar attended by people from wide range of backgrounds across health and social care. Understanding and aligning link worker and community capacity building activity: A place-based approach in York and Wakefield was commissioned by NHS England and delivered by C4PC in collaboration with Community Catalysts, The National Association of Link Workers (NALW), the New NHS Alliance (now The Health Creation Alliance) and the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE).
The full document is available here and the associated appendices can be found in our Resource Library. A graphic summarising the work and findings can be found here.
Why did this work take place?
NHS England want more people to have personalised health care. They have agreed a plan for making this happen and could see that social prescribing link workers and communities are very important to their plan. The Coalition for Personalised Care (C4PC) – a partnership of organisations, charities and people with lived experience – want to hep NHSE deliver their plan.
The partners know that in each local authority area there are many different organisations employ link workers and many other organisations are involved in helping build the capacity of communities to care. We think that knowing about and working with the different organisations that employ link workers and help build community capacity in one particular place will help health colleagues to deliver the NHSE plan.
C4PC partners know that each place is different but thought that showing how this works in two different places might help other health colleagues do something similar in their place.
Community Catalysts, the National Association of Link Workers, the Health Creation Alliance and the Social Care Institute for Excellence worked together in two areas – York and Wakefield.
Community Catalysts found out all about all the organisations in York and Wakefield that employed link workers or were involved in helping communities become stronger and more able to help, whilst NALW got all of the link workers together in each place (including social prescribing link workers) to think about how they worked together now and how they could work together better in the future.
The Health Creation Alliance gathered all of the community capacity building organisations together to learn from them what works in helping communities get stronger and better able to care for the people living there and SCIE got local leaders together with the community capacity-building organisations to think about how they work together now and how to work together better in the future. They also thought together about how they could measure the impact of what they did.
The work started in February 2020, completing the first phase before lockdown. The other four sections of work had to be carried out virtually and in places whose attention was on managing the pandemic. People working in York and Wakefield were amazingly generous in giving us the time we needed to carry out the work.
What we learned
There are lots of different organisations in a particular area who employ link workers or help communities to get stronger. Some work in health and social care but others work in areas like housing, the police and fire. It’s important to get to know all the organisations that are working in your area so that you can work well together.
Link workers need help to find and collaborate with people with a similar job who are working in their neighbourhood. When they do work in partnership, they can reach more people, helping them connect to local people or groups that are best placed to help.
Community groups and local people often lack the resource to respond to the needs of the people introduced to them by link workers. Link workers with small budgets can use them to support community groups and fill gaps.
To become well and stay well people and communities need four things:
Opportunities to connect with each other
Space to meet – space to think – and space to find their own solutions
Opportunities to employ and enjoy their skills, talents and passions
To be able to take control over their lives and the places where they live
Professionals have an important role in supporting communities and people to stay well. People who are really good at helping are people who listen, work with people on an equal basis, trust, connect and look for and support natural community leaders.
Communities and the organisations that support them need proper funding. ‘Community strengthening work doesn’t just happen’.
Organisations who help to strengthen communities are better at their job if they work together. Local leaders can help with this. ‘Start where the energy is and build on existing partnerships – don’t invent new structures when you already have these working well’.
Its important to measure the impact of all the work being done to strengthen local communities. It works best if there is a common set of local measures.