Caroline Armitage is the Chair of the Sussex Partnership, NHS Foundation Trust and also Livability’s Chair of Trustees. Caroline speaks about the challenges and opportunities of meeting care needs within community life.
There’s been a clear recognition by care professionals that the best way for people to be cared for is in the context of the community as a whole, hence the move away over many years from the old institutional model. Now we’re recognising that even the smallest centres that were built 20 years ago are not sufficiently connected to their communities, they’re still too isolated. It’s an underlying motif in absolutely everything social care is trying to do, both from the commissioner’s and provider’s perspective.
As we travel forwards, we’d like to start to bridge that gap between the residential home model of care and the supported living model. We’d like to extend provision beyond a hub or service (which will often be a care home for those who are most profoundly disabled), into providing supported living. But that’s only part of it, because we’d also like to bridge the gap from the other side.
It could start with communities, where local people are asking us, ‘What can we do to help?’ by engaging them more with our service provision. We see great opportunity for this to happen through church communities with which we are connected – but we would like to build broader than that.
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As funding moves – slowly – towards personal budgets, people want to spend their money in their communities. Our Lifestyle Choices services can help people visit their local gym, for example, whereas historically a physiotherapist would have visited them at a care unit. It’s far better that someone goes to the gym themselves, and gets involved in that community.
A big plus is creating that interaction with people, which combats loneliness. Loneliness leads to poorer mental health, and fractured communities, with neighbourhoods neglected rather than loved and looked after. The result is hostile environments with higher levels of stress, higher levels of mental illness – there are so many negative results, the hidden cost of a broken society.
I think this comes from our Christian ethos: we want to serve others. We have a wonderful team of staff around the UK who have been with us for a long time. Our staff work hard to involve people in the lives of their communities. They don’t just see supporting people as a ‘job’, but as an integral part of their life.
Our charity also enjoys a number of partnerships with churches in a wide variety of neighbourhoods. With strong roots in their communities, Livability sees the church as the key to social cohesion. Much can be done by churches and other community partners to promote social inclusion and reach out to people who would otherwise be on the margins of society.