One of the strong, positive features of life over the past few months is the response of community groups, as people step up to provide practical help and a social connection to those in their communities who might need that support. Faith groups are often part of it, providing volunteers and practical resources to make it happen and years of experience in organising community activities, underpinned by values and belief.
Many commentators are noticing this, sometimes with an element of surprise – while many of the formal bodies seemed to be still thinking about what to do and where to start, the community just got on with it and made it happen.
Those of us who are part of the community sector were not surprised. Community groups have been doing this sort of work for many years, complementing and reinforcing the role of public services and more formal care services. Outside the Box is bringing together resources to share good practice and this has started with what many groups had learned over the years as well as sharing the learning from this particular set of circumstances. Committed to Good Support has examples and tools, and we are always keen to hear your experiences and suggestions on what helps: https://otbds.org/projects/committed-to-good-support/
The evidence of our impact has also been there for longer than many people realise. Five years ago, I did a literature review of the evidence around smaller-scale community responses, the impacts of age-friendly communities and the other supports and policies that older people said they wanted. I found a lot of evaluations and reviews, all coming to the same conclusion: this sort of community support works, and compares well with the less flexible types of services that the public sector generally provides or commissions. If anyone is feeling keen, you can read it at: https://otbds.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/buildingcommunitybasedsupportwitholderpeople23.pdf
The experience of Covid is prompting the Scottish Government to look at how we can all create a community that takes forward the positive achievements and creates the right circumstances for social renewal. This includes a strong Equalities focus and welcoming the contribution of many groups and communities, and Outside the Box is working alongside Faith in Older People and other networks to make sure the voices of older people are part of this.
Outside the Box is also working with NHS Health Improvement Scotland on a series of conversations (webinars at the moment, hopefully some small face to face sessions later if all goes well) to think about how the links between this community support and more formal care systems can be stronger in the future. The first session prompted a lot of good questions and comments – and more about how people and organisations trust each other and understand what they contribute than about rules and processes. I’m looking forward to continuing and widening the conversation: what is your experience of what can help community activities that support our friends and neighbours to get going and keep flourishing?
Anne Connor, Chief Executive, Outside the Box
27 July 2020