“Much more of a partnership”

Active Communities’ involvement in Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership

Introduction and summary

The Public Bodies (Joint Working) (Scotland) Act 2014 is the legislation setting out how health and social care must be brought together in each Scottish local authority area. It requires health boards and local authorities to integrate a range of services, including adult social care, adult primary care, community health services and some hospital services such as addiction and substance dependency services and mental health services provided by GPs in hospital. In some areas, additional services have been integrated; for instance, children’s services.

The new arrangements also create opportunities for community, voluntary and patient groups to be involved in the planning of local health and social care services. CHEX Network member, Active Communities has been taking advantage of these opportunities with Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP). Building on an existing strong relationship with statutory partners, Active Communities has a place round the table within Renfrewshire HSCP’s structures. This enables community priorities to be fed into the planning process, with a range of positive results so far.

Who are Active Communities?

Based in Paisley, Active Communities delivers and supports physical activity, community sport and health and wellbeing across Renfrewshire. Its aim is to create communities where people enjoy being healthy and active citizens.

Active Communities delivers a range of programmes as part of contracts, funded initiatives and for partner agencies. It aims to build the capacity of the local community to be involved in delivering the programmes. This is done by recruiting, training and supporting local people to become volunteers and leaders, helping to ensure the sustainability of the projects at a local level.

The organisation believes that increased emphasis should be placed on preventing ill-health and not solely treating illness. It is committed to a community-led approach – engaging, supporting and enabling local communities to take action to improve their health and well-being, regardless of age or ability.

How Active Communities is influencing health and social care

As has happened in most other local authority areas, NHS Renfrewshire And Renfrewshire Council have jointly set up an integration joint board (IJB), which is in charge of integrated services and associated budgets. The IJB is formed of representatives from the local authority and health board and a range of other professions and practices related to health and social care.

A strategic planning group (SPG) has also been set up, tasked with developing a strategic commissioning plan, or strategic plan, setting out how integrated services will be delivered using the available budget. The legislation requires strategic planning groups to involve service users, carers, health and social care providers and professionals, non-commercial providers of social housing and third sector organisations.

Active Communities has a place on the SPG in Renfrewshire. The SPG feeds into the IJB and meets every two months and is attended by officers from Renfrewshire Health & Social Care Partnership including the Chief Officer, staff from other local organisations, carer representatives and community representatives. Local organisations that attend include housing associations, care providers and third sector organisations.

Through sitting on the SPG, Active Communities has input into the SPG’s Action Plan, working to ensure that prominence is given to community-led health’s contribution to tackling health inequalities. As a community-led health organisation with community members on its Board, Active Communities brings community priorities into strategic planning. Nevertheless, Susan McDonald, General Manager of Active Communities notes that organisations such as hers go to efforts to ensure this happens:

“Third sector members feedback to their teams and networks on the meetings to ensure everyone has the chance to have their say on issues. We are also sent the papers in plenty of time to allow us time to consult. If there are any major issues or concerns we can ask for these to be addressed through the short term working groups.”

(Susan McDonald, Active Communities)

What difference does it make?

Through its involvement in the SPG, Active Communities has influenced health and social care planning in a number of ways. For instance, the organisation successfully asked for the term “community life” to be changed to “community-led activity” within the SPG’s Action Plan.

Active Communities has also used its place on the SPG to encourage the IJB to improve its community engagement. Susan feels that this is particularly important given that most people in the community will not be aware of what the Health and Social Care Partnership is. As a result, the Partnership has planned public events and now has a Facebook and Twitter account. The Partnership also funds the Community Connectors programme. This is a collaboration between Linstone Housing, Recovery Across Mental Health (RAMH) and Active Communities that aims to bring together services in the area.

Third sector partners have even helped shape the format of the SPG from a board meeting-style arrangement to smaller discussions involving group exercises. This has enabled participants to feel more comfortable to participate in discussion and led to more productive meetings. Short term working groups also explore key issues, and Active Communities staff are hopeful that their involvement will influence how services are run.

Susan describes the current set up as an improvement on what existed before, highlighting that the SPG provides an opportunity for officers to get together with partners. This includes the Chief Officer of Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership who attends most of the meetings.

“It’s definitely much more of a partnership, and partners are being listened to, and are more aware of each other’s work than before. There’s also a recognition and interest in different ways of working. It’s a lot more joined up.”

(Susan McDonald, Active Communities)

Susan also describes how the SPG gives partners the chance to understand budget constraints and be more realistic about what’s available and what’s not. The experience so far is that the IJB is being honest about budget implications and wants to work together in the most effective way possible.

Conclusions and lessons learned

Susan points out that community organisations like Active Communities don’t always have the time and resources to get involved in structures such as the SPG. Despite welcoming the establishing of short-term working groups, they result in even more meetings. Susan feels that some kind of financial support would help community and voluntary organisations to release staff to take part in health and social care planning.

Too often, Susan feels, the third sector is spoken of as an equal partner but not always treated as one.  She adds that the third sector should have a vote in the IJB – currently this is limited to the NHS partners and councillors. A former councillor, who was on the IJB at the setting up stage, was honest enough to admit to Susan that they had limited knowledge of the work of the SPG. Councillors do not attend the SPG and, as a result, Susan has been working to raise awareness of community-led health with the elected members on the IJB.

Despite the constraints in terms of time and capacity, Susan encourages community-led health organisations to get involved in the new structures where possible. 

“Don’t be afraid of speaking out and pushing to see actions. If you’re not at the table then you won’t have the chance to influence things”

(Susan McDonald, Active Communities)

See CHEX’s policy briefing, A Place at the Table, for more detail on the new integrated structures. A shorter version of the above case study is also contained in the briefing.




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