Putting the local into 'Think Local, Act Personal'

Over the past few weeks there has been much debate about personal budgets in an era of austerity with some good discussion about challenges and possible solutions. However 'Think Local Act Personal' is about more than personal budgets. The much bigger and more important debates are about the future of the relationship between the national and local state and local people in their communities and about how communities themselves build and sustain supportive networks. Though In Control itself is strongly associated with self-directed support and personal budgets we have always seen this as only one means to the end of an inclusive, mutually supportive society. Sometimes we have faced the criticism that we are for individual rather than collective solutions whereas the reality of course is that personal budgets and supportive community networks are entirely complimentary.

Though made more urgent by the severe resource pressure on public services this is really an on-going debate about the adaptation of the welfare state and the appropriate contributions of state, communities and individuals. There has been much think-tank work in this area in recent years and some attempts to give practical life to key ideas emerging from this thinking. In policy terms there have been significant interventions, especially from CLG around place-based approaches and localism. Politically we now have Red Toryism, Blue Labour, the Big and the Good Society - all in this space.

As well as the sometimes distracting political heat generated is the challenge of complexity. On the one hand there is the real issue that working out how society transforms is quite difficult! On the other there are lots of clever people thinking about this stuff and sometimes practicality gets neglected. That's why I'm really pleased that Think Local, Act Personal's Building Community Capacity project has now published some practically useful materials for people attempting to build and sustain community capacity in their areas. Kicked off by my old Putting People First Team at the DH and led by the impressive Catherine Wilton - this project has beavered away for almost two years now. It has been engaging with councils, their community partners and with organisations and initiatives active in developing and delivering practical approaches to building and sustaining supportive local networks. The project has uncovered and shared a wealth of impactful groups and activities. Check out the website ………for lots of examples and local case studies.

Last week a new suite of practical materials were published. These include evidence commissioned from Professor Martin Knapp from the LSE on the cost effectiveness of some approaches including time banking and community navigation - plus advice on cost efficient ways of checking the impact of local activities. It is a terrible irony that at a time when such approaches are most needed they are also soft targets for local cuts. These tools offer some ways of proving the worth and hence defending effective community-based initiatives.

Another great practical contribution is offered by 'Are We There Yet'. This checklist and planning tool aims to help local organisations and people make sure that, in tough times, the real wealth of local communities is released and sustained. It helps you work out how local partners can mobilise and extend their capacity to support disabled and older people and enable them to contribute as full citizens. To illustrate some of the great initiatives, you can also watch online the short film of a "Dragon's Den" type event held at the Guardian where several groups pitched to a group of decision makers headed up by Richard Jones director of adult social care at Lancashire and at the time of filming president of ADASS.

We seem to be finding this even more difficult than delivering self-directed support. There are lots of reasons for that - political, conceptual, financial, practical and organisational. However, this is where the most important action is going to be so let's not get bogged down - let's get more local action going in this space and keep sharing our learning.

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Last Updated : 18 July 2011. Page Author: Laura Bimpson.