Local Area Coordination: Helping people stay strong
Ralph Broad is the Director of Inclusive Neighbourhoods and is developing Local Area Coordination in England as driver for building stronger communities and non service solutions and a catalyst for social care and health reform. He is part of Think Local Act Personal's Learning Community for Building Community Capacity and his work with Inclusive Neighbourhoods is featured in the Building Community Capacity section of the TLAP website.
Yesterday, the new report 'Local Area Coordination FROM SERVICE USERS TO CITIZENS', was published by the Centre for Welfare Reform.
Originally developed in Western Australia in 1988, Local Area Coordination (LAC) has subsequently developed nationally and internationally, most recently starting in sites in England.
It is now contributing to thinking nationally around the value of individual and community assets, building community capacity, real personalisation (it's about more than money) and making services more personal, local, flexible and accountable.
It moves the "primary source of support" or "front end" of the service system from crisis, assessment and services to prevention, capacity building and local solutions.
Local Area Coordination "builds individual, family and community self-sufficiency so that individuals with intellectual disability can choose to live with their families, or in their local community without compromising their quality of life".
In practice, this means embedding a Local Area Coordinator within a small geographical community to support 50-65 individuals and their families. The Local Area Coordinator offers a single point of contact and helps people solve their own problems and build a good life as a member of their own community.
In other words Local Area Coordination starts in the right place - the start - it does not wait for problems to grow too big, it does not encourage dependency on service-solutions. It begins by helping people to be as strong and as connected as soon as possible - preventing problems and crises.
This is not just a structural change, it is also the practical application of a powerful set of values. LAC is rooted in a tradition that does not see people as fundamentally needy. Instead it starts with the assumption that people have gifts and the right to shape and control their own life and the expression of those gifts in community. This means putting each person at the centre of decision-making and working with the individual and family to pursue their vision for a good life as part of their community.
Too often, services do not just undermine the individual's autonomy they also fail to recognise the wealth of possibility that exists in local communities. Local Area Coordination is not just embedded in community it is one way of building stronger communities. It helps people recognise what is already present but helps develop new opportunities. Local Area Coordination builds on all that is best in social work and fits the aspiration of many services to build capacity.
As such, it should be critical to any reform of social care and health services. Putting strength-based, preventative and capacity building approaches at the front of the system should help to connect and to reshape human services, to make them more personal, flexible and efficient. This will have a powerful impact across the whole system.