Improving health and wellbeing: different and unique relationships
Featured article -
09 March 2017
Brian Goodwin, Community Services Manager on behalf of the Community Agents Essex
In 2013 some voluntary sector organisations in Essex realised they had to do something differently in order to care for the increasing numbers of elderly people in our county. Village Agents, run by the Rural Community Council of Essex (RCCE), had been operating successfully in Mid Essex for four years so Essex County Council decided to fund an enhanced model across the county.
In 2014 the RCCE, the British Red Cross, Age UK Essex and Essex Neighbourhood Watch combined their own unique strengths and, funded by Essex County Council, formed one identity – Community Agents Essex. Our aims were clear from the beginning:
- To improve the health and wellbeing of older people and their informal carers
- To support and maintain independent living
- To reduce demand on health and social care services.
While our agents are employed by RCCE and BRC they work as one, sharing the same vision of providing person-centred support, empowering people to shape their own needs, maintain their confidence and continue living independently. It is about being goal-focussed and working alongside established community groups and organisations – many of them voluntary - to connect people back into local life, and to achieve their goals.
Through this approach we have created a strong, trusted brand and broken down barriers for people to accept support early. But most importantly we have made a difference to peoples’ lives AND reduced the number of assessments ECC has to undertake.
So how do we achieve a reduction in assessments?
We are quickly building trusting relationships and understanding peoples’ needs and preferences and, because we are independent from statutory services, people feel comfortable about telling us more. Once we have earned a client’s trust we use secure systems to support them in a variety of ways. Some are simply seeking information and advice, such as how to maximise their income, while others need practical help with continuing to live independently.
Essex County Council is not just the commissioner – it has been an active partner from the beginning and is represented at board meetings where the strategic direction is set. Community Agents are not social care professionals. They come from diverse backgrounds but all have local knowledge and training which ensures older people benefit from the best possible support.