On July 10th Bury Council showcased their new community engagement model at iNetwork’s Transform and Innovate: Neighbourhood Working and Engagement event. The showcase was nothing short of inspiring and looks to change the behaviours and culture of community engagement. Furthermore, it looks to deliver a significant victory in reducing the pressures on our public services and offers a more collective approach with the council to support a place-based collaboration across partners that’s co-produced with citizens.
The Use of Neighbourhood Hubs: Ann Norleigh-Noi
Ann Norleigh-Noi was first to present and spoke of how we need to focus more on the contextual understanding of space and place and how this allows individuals to have greater responsibility, ownership and control of their own health and wellbeing. This she explained also includes the environment and their communities, which would reduce the demand for specialist higher cost services.
Delegates heard about examples from the Radcliffe based program whereby individuals were given the help they required to prevent them from being taken to public services. Ann went on to reveal the means for achieving this through the use of group evaluations, target settings, action planning, review and reflecting. This will enable team members to reduce duplication making it more apparent if any other services are dealing with the same individual, whilst also creating the ability to bring in services on an ad-hoc basis.
If we succeed in projects like this Ann posited that we are going to see changes and go from co-location to collaboration, isolation to integration, competition to partnership and system failures to effective provisions. This will mean the pressure faced on frontline services will be significantly reduced, creating opportunities for prevention and early intervention with individuals who might normally present themselves at expensive statutory services.
The Role of Elected Members in Leading Communities: Sajid Hashmi MBE
Following on from Ann, Sajid Hashmi MBE the Independent Chair of Bury’s Voluntary Community and Faith Alliance (VCFA) presented on how the VCFA aim to provide volunteering and development support to the VCF in Bury enabling them to deliver services that enhance the quality of life for the locals.
Sajid explained that they have created a strong channel of communication between themselves and Bury council and in doing so have managed to provide representation at a strategic level on behalf of the sector. In addition to this, Sajid went on to mention how this collaboration has led to influence and disseminate strategic issues to the wider sector and thus local communities. We heard how the VCFA can access funding, provide support/advice to deliver projects in order to facilitate and improve cooperation within communities to develop services and projects relevant to local need.
Delegates were then told of the benefits of having a partnership with a local authority meant that it helped to promote innovation and transformation, whilst providing additional investment through grant funding, helping the public sector save costs and deliver localised services. For the VCFA this partnership enables them to access business support through corporate social responsibility and allow communities to mobilise themselves in order to reduce the pressures on democratic health and social care, frontline services and intervention services.
Here is a link to the Bury VCFA website for more info:
Increasing Neighbourhood Engagement: Dave Thomas
Empowering individuals within communities to engage helped to reduce the reliance on traditional services explained Dave Thomas the Neighbourhood Engagement Manager. The biggest change they had implemented was to remove Town Forums because they did not achieve in the changing landscapes within communities, they were centrally led by local authority and Dave explained that there is an appetite from within the community to engage and be more involved in a new model.
We heard that it is vital for this new model to be co-produced for people in and around their own areas This is because all areas are different, encouraging behaviour change will lead to building independence within communities, allowing individuals to share decision making, thus this model embraces change, explores new opportunities and builds relationships.
At this point in the event, Dave explained that Bury had used a three tiered approach; borough wide approach, neighbourhood approach and a ward level approach. Throughout the borough they have introduced a new digital approach, on the neighbourhood level they have replaced town forums panel which has taken away decision making from elected members and given this responsibility to local people who can shape their own communities, this has made the process more democratic , inclusive, positive and supportive. Thirdly, on a community level have introduced community led action groups that have empowered local people to work together to develop real solutions to issues within their communities.
Finally Dave spoke of how successful they have been in hosting Annual Neighbourhood Engagement events that have been more inclusive and informal and last year over 67 thousand was allocated to 188 community projects and they have found the that the result of this initiative has led to the spectrum of events and projects growing.
Using a digital first approach to transformation: Joanne Smith Development Manager/ Kathy Hoyle Research and Consultation Manager
Joanne and Kathy came on to explain how Bury Council had developed the Bury Directory an online digital platform that is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week. It offers information and advice that covers all aspects of wellbeing. Joanne went on to explain how all their wellbeing plans were written by professionals or charities and this encouraged the directory to hold the right information. This allows for charities to have ownership of the information provided and permits them to update it regularly.
Kathy then spoke of the benefits of creating the Bury Directory and how this had integrated health and social care reduced the demand on public services as well as promoting digital inclusion. The uniqueness of this service is that it has a language translation tool and full accessibility features so that everyone in the community can make use of the service.
Here is a link to the Bury Directory