Local councils, health providers, the police, community and voluntary groups and other agencies join forces on countless projects across the county every day.
But as funding for councils continues to reduce, we can’t keep up with the increasing demand for our services and need to change the way we do things.
The new approach we’re taking is called Thriving Communities. It’s a huge shift in the way we’ll work with residents.
We’ve already started and although it’s early days we’re already making progress.
We’ve been spending time in communities listening to residents talk about their lives, the issues they face, what support would help most and what’s most important to them.
We’ll use this information to help us plan more flexible, personalised services – and help residents develop the resilience they need to support themselves and each other and achieve the things that are important to them.
There’s a wealth of ability and determination in our communities which we’ll use to help residents build secure futures with less reliance on high-cost public services.
This is a huge change for residents, our partnership organisations and staff and will take time, but what we learn will help us transform the ways we work with individuals and communities to build a better future together.
Changing the rules
Thriving Communities focuses on listening to residents and understanding their needs so we can offer support which tackles the problem rather than just the symptoms.
By tackling problems at source we aim to create sustainable support services which build on the strengths communities already have to continue far beyond initial funding and council involvement.
It’s not about cost-cutting. It’s about talking to local people to find out exactly would help them most and what matters most before services are planned and money is spent.
Local residents are better placed than anyone to tell us what they need and our Thriving Communities approach will make sure we use this knowledge to help us make the most efficient use of scarce resources and target them where they’ll have the most impact to improve lives.
Communities telling their stories in their own words
We’re testing out the new Thriving Communities way of working in Cotmanhay near Ilkeston with 12 families who offered to help. It’s called the ‘Cotmanhay Hub.’
Initial research showed understanding of real local need and the way different public services work together to make the most of resources and funding could be improved.
To tackle this issue a team of staff were freed up from their desks, offices and usual ways of working to spend time talking to the families in their own homes and as they went about their daily lives.
They were asked about services including childcare, public transport, health services and social care with the aim of changing the rules about how support services operate and how, or if, people use them.
Their thoughts and ideas were recorded and used to help shape plans for potential new services which address specific local needs in a better, more cost-effective way.
As the pilot develops residents are also being encouraged to be part of the planning process to help build community pride and confidence to pull together, help each other and solve problems at grass roots local level.
This aims to improve the way local people cope in future if the support services they use have to change or stop altogether due to lack of funding.
Thriving Communities relies on getting to know communities well and building up trust, openness and honesty on all sides.
Better together – a true partnership approach
Although council, health and other agencies already do their best to work well together they can sometimes be limited by obstacles within their own organisations.
Thriving Communities aims to promote stronger links to break down barriers within and between them.
It aims to create an environment where professionals from all agencies can talk and work together freely as a team to get to know, understand and work with local people, design community-based services that meet their needs and hopes for the future, prevent duplication and make better use of time and money.
Although it’s early days and there’s a lot of work to do, Thriving Communities will eventually be an approach that runs across everything we do from childcare provision, transport planning and care for older people.
It’s not about one department or team – it’s everyone’s responsibility.
Thriving Communities test areas
We have 5 Thriving Communities pilot areas – Cotmanhay, Danesmoor, Gamesley, Shirebrook and Newhall.
Similar work is also taking place in Amber Valley, Chesterfield and the Derbyshire Dales.
Thriving Communities in summary
In summary, Thriving Communities:
- is a completely new way of working
- focuses on people – not processes
- invites communities to tell their stories in their own words
- frees up staff to gather information from residents
- gets to know local people and builds a relationship of listening, trust, openness and honesty
- encourages councils and other agencies to work together better
- identifies and tackles the problems not the symptoms
- aims to avoid duplication and improve partnership working to make the most of scarce resources
- understands the ‘need beyond the need’
- is community based, not service based
- uses local knowledge and information – not regional or national stats
Thriving Communities is not a quick fix but we believe that by working together and taking this new approach we can improve the support available to families and communities in Derbyshire while dealing with unprecedented budget cuts.
To find out more about our Thriving Communities work contact Becky Lomas email: firstname.lastname@example.org or tel: 01629 539171.