Message from Frances Hasler - Healthwatch Camden Director
Part of Healthwatch Camden’s role is to promote ways that people can have a direct say in the health and social care services they use, through co-designing services and co-producing new ways of providing support. So we were really pleased to be asked to get involved in the council’s Advisory Group on Community Impacts.
Community Impacts is a new approach to the way the council works with the voluntary sector to tackle long-standing social issues such as youth crime, rough sleeping and social isolation. At the end of October there was a Community Impacts networking event where people who have been funded told us more about their projects.
At the event, Councillor Jonathan Simpson , Cabinet member for Promoting Culture and Communities welcomed the new approach, and highlighted the vital role played by the voluntary and community sector in Camden. He said: “…These organisations have the expertise and local knowledge to get to the heart of longstanding issues that we need to tackle together to reduce inequality, build community resilience, and make sure Camden is a place where nobody gets left behind.”
Keith Morgan, newly in post Chief Executive of the Young Camden Foundation, spoke about the inequality and wide-ranging social, cultural and personal experiences which lie at the root of the problem of youth violence. The Young Camden Foundation is supporting youth led social action projects as part of a range of activity to improve outcomes for children, young people and their families who are affected by crime.
Sara Elie from Somers Town Community Association spoke of how their work on rough sleeping came from a simple human response to the evident and rising need all around us. They started looking at what assets in the locality could be shared to do something positive to help.
Other contributors included Rosemary Frazer from Camden Disability Action, Natasha Friend from Camden Giving, about supporting people in the community and Tom Costley from Mind in Camden , on mental wellbeing. All are working to support local residents to make a difference in Camden.
Three of the topics are ones that Healthwatch Camden has consulted on directly. When we were out and about over the summer, the problem of homelessness and rough sleeping was one of the top concerns people wanted us to be aware of. Every time we consult, the topic of mental wellbeing comes high in local priorities. And we’ve just completed a bit of work with CDA about access to community facilities. So we know that the impact funds are directed very closely towards the priorities of local people.
Healthwatch Camden is part of Camden’s voluntary sector, as an independent registered charity we work in partnership as a routine. Getting involved in this work, as advisors, was a new way of contributing.
We support the direct participation of people who use local services in user-led service delivery and design. In the spirit of the community impacts approach we will be supporting collective problem solving, using the shared wisdom of service users and service providers – in both statutory and voluntary sectors – to address the big challenges for local communities.
For example, we are just starting some work on the health impacts of poor air quality, working with a wide range of partners, from Voluntary Action Camden (VAC) to UCL Partners, British Lung Foundation and Public Health. It is a big challenge, and we are looking forward to playing our small part in helping to tackle it.
As ever, tell us what you think on any of these topics – and if you’d like to get more involved in work on air quality please get in touch.