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Call for urgent action in response to the collapse of flagship community action programmes

Alex Fox, chief executive officer of Shared Lives Plus, said: "The Southwark Circles programme and those based upon its model have been widely celebrated and supported by Ministers, civil servants, local authorities and think thanks, so it is worrying that they have now collapsed due to lack of funding. We have an epidemic of isolation and loneliness amongst older people and we see the collapse of too many independent living arrangements for people with learning disabilities or mental health problems due to their isolation from those around them. Many of the government's key policy ambitions for care and support are based upon the delivery of greater community action."Inclusive Change believes that closure of these well-known and well-resourced Circles is something that should cause concern, but not despair and points to examples of community-action which are proving sustainable despite budget cuts. Sian Lockwood OBE, CEO of Community Catalysts, said: "In our experience, community enterprise is alive and well and just needs a little encouragement and support to make a real difference to people's lives. We know that sustainable enterprise starts with passion and a desire to make a difference - together with the kind of gritty determination to drive through the inevitable barriers that comes from an engagement of the heart. Local authorities do need to make an investment in that support - but just as importantly commit to getting out of the way and letting local people get on with delivering local solutions."The Inclusive Change partners make five recommendations for community action that will last beyond the initial investment and calls upon local and national government to renew its commitment to and investment in this vital part of creating sustainable social care:Community action has to be shaped and led by local people and their priorities: guidance and models brought from outside can be useful for giving people a sense of the possible, but must not be prescriptive.Community action initiatives must build on local initiative and must at all costs avoid replacing or undermining existing initiatives. Community asset mapping is always the first step.Community initiatives have to be affordable in the long term. Councils should review all existing and proposed initiatives to ensure they are sustainable, particularly where they have received significant initial investment or outside help.Where the investment case for community action is based on future savings offsetting high running costs, there must be clear evidence that the savings will be tangible and achievable. Local agencies must have a Plan B if savings aren't achieved?Community action must have support at all levels: from the community, the officials and the politicians. Projects are most likely to be real and lasting where the initiative is community-led and addresses local people's priorities.

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Last Updated : 15 May 2014. Page Author: Laura Bimpson.