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Local area coordination and community micro-enterprise development working together in Thurrock

Late last week TLAP, the Coalition for Collaborative Care and Shared Lives Plus launched The Asset Based Area a briefing paper which shows the real benefits of asset based approaches shares information about how to implement these in practice.

In an age of austerity, increasing attention is paid to what councils and the NHS cannot do, making it vital to gain some clarity on what the organisations and people of each area can do. Every area and its citizens can achieve more when they combine their expertise, time, creativity and resources. Decades of practice and research shows that this happens when:

• Everyone shares an asset-based mindset: looking first for what individuals, families and communities can, or could do, with the right support, rather than focusing exclusively on needs and problems.

The paper features Community Catalysts approach to community-enterprise development and Local Area Coordination as two examples of good practice.

Thurrock – an asset-based area

In Thurrock, an area with a strong history as an asset-based area, the council, Community Catalysts and the Local Area Coordination Network have been successfully working together with clear and substantial outcomes and impact.

Since 2013 Thurrock Council and its local partners have had a strong commitment to Local Area Coordination as part of their drive for wider change. Local Area Coordination is an ‘asset based model’ – building on people’s strengths instead of focusing on their deficits. The aim is to ensure vulnerable people are better supported to find local solutions that enable them to build a ‘good life’ and are less dependent on other services as a result.

Often when a person feels alone, or in need of support or care, they would like simply to get help from within their own community. Local Area Coordinators (LACs) help vulnerable people find ways to make a better life. Based in towns and villages around Thurrock, they know the local people – those who need help, and those who can offer different types of help. They don’t provide a formal social care or health service. Instead they ask people “what would make a good life for you?”, and help them find how best to lead that life in their local community.

There are now 14 Local Area Coordinators working across the borough, who support people to find community based solutions instead of relying on traditional services. The model aims to help people to reduce their social isolation, attend local community groups, feel part of their community, make decisions and feel more in control of life.

In March 2016, Thurrock Council extended their commitment as an ‘asset-based area’ and to community based models of support by commissioning Community Catalysts to actively support the development of community micro-enterprises in the borough.

We are becoming increasingly aware that the solution to the crisis facing our health and social care system will be found, to a significant extent, within communities that are better connected, more welcoming and resilient; the work Community Catalysts have done supporting us to develop such communities within Thurrock has been invaluable and enabled us to begin to see our ambitions become reality
Les Billingham, Head of Adult Social Care and Community Development, Thurrock Council

Local Thurrock commissioner Sue Wellard is supported by Community Catalysts to deliver our enterprise development model locally – engaging and supporting existing groups and ventures and providing specialist help to entrepreneurs with a great new idea.

As a result of their community work the 10 Local Area Co-ordinators in Thurrock have deep knowledge of their local area and strong local connections. Working with the Local Area Coordinators has enabled Sue to link into these networks and to use them to identify both people leading established enterprises and entrepreneurs with brand new ideas.

The Local Areas Coordinators have also been able to connect Sue to some of the people they support – enabling them to explore their own passions, interests and potential for contribution or enterprise.

Thurrock’s commitment to both Local Area Coordination and the development of community micro-enterprise is underpinning a much wider shift in thinking and practice – one which is driven by assets thinking, creative person-centred approaches and maximising community connections.

Plates with Mates

Sue Gray a former Councillor wanted to use her passion for people and her local community when she retired from politics. She felt that food was a good way to connect people and knew many lonely isolated people locally who she wanted to support. This was the start of ‘Plates with Mates’, inviting people to come along – with their plate – to eat a healthy home-cooked meal, whilst socialising. Enjoying food in good company gives people an opportunity to meet new friends and begins to ensure loneliness has no part in their lives.

With the help from Sue Wellard and the Community Micro-enterprise Project Plates with Mates has gone from strength to strength. Sue Gray is now running weekly gatherings in 3 sheltered housing schemes with 70 older people involved. People come for food and a chat but it also gives Sue the opportunity to link people with other organisations or local help where they need it.

Sue Wellard used her connections to share information about Plates with Mates with Local Area Coordinators and other professionals who are now spreading the word to people who may be isolated and fancy getting involved. Operating at a micro level, Sue Gray can tailor Plates with Mates to the people that she meets, helping them to get their ‘good life’ in their community along the way.

Impact and outcomes

A year on from the start of the Community Micro-enterprise Project, Sue Wellard has received over 56 referrals and is working with over 40 community enterprises and ventures. Joint work with the Local Area Coordinators has produced strong outcomes.

As a result there has been a significant increase in the range and choice of local, flexible, personal supports and services that people in Thurrock can use – many at no cost or low cost.

LAC Manager Francis and Sue Wellard

The support to local people to maximise their assets and those of their community (including people who have historically only been seen as carer or service user) is reducing the demand for and dependence on formal services as a primary source of support.



The Community Micro-enterprise Project is certainly helping people “to get a life, not a service” and Thurrock is certainly showing its true colours as an asset-based area.

Helen Allen
Community Catalysts, Manager of Enterprise and Community Innovation

Posted in: Community Enterprise

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