The underlying rationale for community-led approaches to housing and neighbourhoods is that they harness the shared commitment of local residents to come together to work collaboratively to co-create an identifiable and sustainable place that can have a positive impact on where they want live and how they want to lead their lives, creating a strong sense of belonging through reciprocity that offers mutual support and that can also help address the social connectedness and wider health and wellbeing of people in those communities. This impact can be seen in four main ways:
The positive effects on self-esteem and mental wellbeing that arise from people having greater influence over their environment, including the design and management of their homes and built environment, and the ability to have a say to resolve local problems.
Being able to contribute their time, skills and goodwill to improve things for others is an important factor in each person’s health and wellbeing. There has been a growth in local initiatives that make the most of the energy, skills and generosity which is already abundant in communities and neighbourhoods, as evidenced during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Understanding the many strengths and assets of communities, and of individuals within them, is an important part of any place-based approach to health and wellbeing. This is an approach that targets an entire community and aims to take a holistic approach (rather than being driven by specific budgets, or service-level priorities) to addressing the drivers of inequalities in housing choices and health and wellbeing, at a neighbourhood level.
The committed and agile way communities have responded to the coronavirus crisis points the way to a new future that’s built around community power. But to be truly transformative, policymakers need to catch up with the innovation that’s happening locally – and, with Covid-19 in mind, help embed it as the “new normal” as we emerge from the crisis. In so many localities including those of high deprivation, mutual aid and support groups have sprung up and risen to the challenge of the pandemic. For example:
- Engaged Lives (opens new window)
ExtraCare Charitable Trust’s Engaged Lives project seeks to build greater community, mutual support and connection amongst the UK’s older population. The project aims to build the confidence and capacity of our residents (and the wider community) to lead “Engaged Lives” – lives of immersive and purposeful activity, within a community that people feel they belong to. As part of the project, Engaged Lives have produced a 2 part do-it-yourself guide, ‘Steps to Connection’ (for purchase from ECCT), which outlines ways to construct a motivating “Vision of Connection” and introduces 10 steps individuals can take to boost connection with others.
- Levenshulme Inspire
During lockdown, Inspire quickly took responsibility for food delivery for older people; a food bag scheme; and telephone and online support.
“The amount of fantastic community collaboration that has gone on around this, I don’t think we’re going to lose. It will have a warm glow for a long time.”Ed Cox, Chair of Levenshulme Inspire
A community-led approach enables organisations and individuals to focus on collaborative approaches to promoting health and wellbeing. This approach moves beyond traditional services and treatment for illness delivered by health professionals, to make use of resources such as peer support, social prescribing and shared care.
Creating sustainable, connected and resilient communities who look out for one another can have a significant positive impact on:
- Forging a community – fostering greater community connectedness and creating a sense of belonging, enhanced by the design of homes and the neighbourhood and use of technology and communication aids
- Health and adult social care – local people contribute to improvements in planned local health improvement and social care outcomes achieved by service providers working with communities
- The wellbeing of all – people support one another to improve health and wellbeing, reduce loneliness and social isolation, and create a positive sense of shared purpose
- Self-care – people are able to better manage their own health and wellbeing
Housing, health, care and wellbeing are integral to one another, and many housing providers and neighbourhood organisations are actively engaged with promoting health and wellbeing as a core part of their social purpose. Social prescribing is an example of this more holistic thinking about health and wellbeing, and the NHS Long Term Plan sets out an objective to increase the number of people being supported at home through social prescribing. With the evolving Primary Care Networks, local health services are also enabled to direct patients towards community activities (anything from volunteering, to community gardening, to peer support groups, exercise classes and much more) to improve their own health outcomes.
- Radian housing launch innovative social prescribing project with Elemental (opens new window)
- Bridging the gap between health and housing. A united approach in South Wales
- ExtraCare Charitable Trust: Wellbeing Advisers (opens new window)
- Collaborative Care Solutions: Floating support for people with enduring mental health difficulties, learning disabilities and challenging behaviour (opens new window)
- Kindliness – developing peer support within Sheltered Housing in Dorset
- Putting kindness at the heart of community planning in North Ayrshire (opens new window)
- Southdown Housing: East Sussex Social prescribing project (opens new window)
- Gentoo Housing: Wellbeing Service for older people in Sunderland (opens new window)
Browse the Housing LIN for more resources on collaborative approaches to health, care and wellbeing.