Local Area Coordination – partnerships in many guises in York

Featured article - 17 July 2017
By the York team and the Local Area Coordination Network (CEO Samantha Clark)

Head-shot of the author, the York team and the Local Area Coordination Network (CEO Samantha Clark)

By the end of this summer there will be nearly 100 Local Area Coordinators working across England & Wales; walking alongside people in their local community to help them take action towards their own vision of a good life. They will be working across the 12 very different areas currently implementing Local Area Coordination but we know from the evidence that if the design and practice are right they will all be contributing to strong, connected communities made up of resilient citizens.

Local Area Coordination as a way of working is not new

But we are learning about the part it plays in system-reform all the time. In York, the new community operating model supports the cross-sector wide vision of supporting people to enjoy healthy, active and independent lives. It is based on enabling people in York to have control over how they manage social care needs, with a strong emphasis on the use of personal and community assets, collaboration and strength-based working in partnership. That partnership is reflected in the Local Area coordination Leadership Group that are providing cross sector strategic support and include City of York Council, Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust, York CVS, Tang Hall Big Local, York CCG, NHS Foundation Trust, York University, Priory Medical Group and the National LAC Network.

The Council are hosting the team as part of their journey to move away from the current model, in which the adult social care often intervenes at a point of crisis in customers’ lives. This risks creating a dependency between the customer and services. The new model, built on an early-intervention and prevention approach, will focus on the individual and their community’s capacity to self-care and manage as the first option. It is about building resilience and contribution rather than reliance on the state. So, Local Area Coordinators are becoming a trusted accessible resource in the community.

The mantra of thinking big but starting small and growing

That mantra is at the heart of Local Area Coordination and that includes becoming a Local Area Coordinator. Penny, one of the new team members in York; reflects on the importance of building relationships at the start. She says: “Being a new starter, in a new role, has felt refreshing as it’s not the normal ‘hit the ground running’ arrangement that you get with a lot of jobs these days. The fact that the Coordinators have been given the time they need to build knowledge and networks, underlines the fact that City of York is committed to this new approach, and to allowing us to do the job properly.”

Penny’s colleagues Jennie and Sarah have shared their experience of explaining the role to people they meet as the programme starts. They say: “As new Local Area Coordinators in York, we feel this is an exciting role to be stepping into at a time of shared vision and action. The groundwork has been set for a real culture shift within not just the Council and services but the wider community and these roles will play an important part in that. The approach encourages a bigger picture way of thinking and the flexibility to work with individuals and families in the way that suits them and focuses on helping them to come up with their own solutions and to value their own strengths and the strengths of others. This feels like a much more positive way of working.”

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