14 July 2016

Local area coordination: a new approach to meeting needs

In the midst of austerity and service cuts, some care leaders are turning to innovation in the form of Local Area Coordination (LAC) and reaping extensive rewards. Developed in Australia, LAC is a long-term and evidence based approach to local social care which focuses on supporting members of the community before they come to need care services.

The benefits of LAC

LAC works by building strength in communities. This is based around the philosophy that every member of the community should possess a skill or asset that makes them valuable to those around them. In turn, this not only builds confidence but creates a network of support.

This approach is building self-confidence and community support engenders a self-care based approach in contrast to more traditional models. This includes raising awareness on how to prevent unnecessary use of public services, such trips to the doctor, for example. Instead, this approach promotes the support of families and friends where possible, through a form of social upskilling and education.

LAC in action

A prime example here in the UK is Derby City Council, and Brian Frisby, founding member of a national LAC network, has shared insight with me on how it works, and its range achievements so far.

Brian shed light on measurement of results, which have been quantified based on the Social Value Act to a £4.00 return for every £1.00 spent on the care system. This is calculated on changes people experience in their lives; whether they be positive or negative. These changes are also ranked by importance to that individual, and expressed in monetary terms by calculating how much that person would pay for that particular change. This acts as a way of measuring success but in a much more personal way, and allow councils to monitor the effects of LAC on individuals more thoroughly. In Derby’s case to see great success.

The system entails practitioners – named Local Area Coordinators – working directly with people in the community to guide them to local solutions. This can involve drawing upon their family for support, connecting them to others in their community who may be able to offer support and only where clearly necessary, referring them to formal services. However, a core, dignifying element of the approach is enabling the person to in turn support someone else; making a friend and becoming a friend.

Brian cites a “bottom-up” approach to be a key component of a successful LAC network, as change and action should be driven by those who are within the community and followed through by service leaders, rather than the other way around.

With learnings from Derby now driving wider system reform, many other examples of LAC in action are developing across the country. These include Thurrock, the Isle of Wight and Swansea who are all making significant progress with this approach. More are likely to follow as awareness of the benefits spreads even further across care systems.

Strategy for change

The successes of LAC call for a refocus of mind-set across senior teams in order to consider these large scale changes. This is not something that can be implemented overnight, and requires that local leaders make strong connections, build relationships and taking steady, measured decisions to see long-term results.

One thing that is clear is the benefits of LAC or other similar systems which are beginning to emerge across care services. It is also worth noting a factor they have in common - a focus on considering the people in need of services rather the transactional side of care.

Lenny Michael is a consultant in Odgers Interim’s Local Government Practice.

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