The Our Place Bradford (Crag Road) project aims to address issues of social isolation, mental health, alcohol / drug dependency and joblessness in a deprived community in Bradford, Yorkshire.
It does this through a community designed and centred approach. Crag Road residents, service providers, community groups and organisations formed a Steering Group to develop the project. They used Our Place funding to rent a flat within the community to provide a local space for drop-in services, activities and training. Three residents have also been hired and trained to provide peer support and signpost the community to relevant services. The initiative aims to increase access to needed services, reduce police call-outs and reduce the number of people in rent arrears or moving out of the community.
What was the issue?
The Crag Road area of Bradford is severely deprived, standing in the bottom 1.1% of the country in terms of the Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), with problems surrounding alcohol addiction, drug dependency, isolation, mental health and joblessness. Local people have to take two buses in order to access support services and training opportunities, resulting in many not accessing the help they need:
“People were being prescribed courses and programmes that they had to do, but that would take two buses plus bus fare to get in to attend, people weren’t attending so then nothing is being addressed, nothing is changing…”.
The combination of these issues has a significant impact on the community and its ability to improve lifestyle and choices, as well as costing local service providers through high turnover of flats, rent arrears and police callouts.
What was the solution?
Residents identified that they wanted accessible, local services so, the Steering Group rented a flat in the community and employed and trained three local residents as ‘Navigators’.
The flat, which opened in February 2015, is a new base for local people to meet and learn new skills, as well as offering a space for professional health services, an alcohol support worker and a drop-in for Police Community Support Officers. The community will also decide on the training topics and activities on offer at the flat. A flat was chosen by the Steering Group because it was local and accessible and would be a ‘comfortable space’ that resembled home.
The Navigators act as advocates for residents and communicate residents’ needs to the Steering Group. They are people who are known and trusted in the community, there for ‘peer support to enable people to volunteer more and to understand where they can access support’.
Residents have shaped the project to build greater commitment and greater trust between themselves and service providers. The Steering Group think residents ‘feel it’s their initiative…they’ve got the confidence to challenge [service providers].’.
Who is involved?
The Steering Group, led by Health Action Local Engagement (HALE), consists of residents, the local Council, local service providers and voluntary organisations within the community, including Bolton Woods Community Centre.
Why did they choose the Our Place approach?
Our Place was seen as a ‘real opportunity’ to build on the community development work of HALE, Bolton Woods Community Centre and the neighbourhood team from the Council.
The funding enabled them to take this to the next stage and provided a “totally different delivery; it’s local and tailored to residents needs and dictated by them”.
As well as these resources, Our Place was seen to be part of local government’s agenda and provided a robustness (such as through the cost-benefit analysis) that HALE and the Council hoped would encourage service providers in the community to participate and
“… prove to other agencies that [the] approach works and [is] cost effective in the long term”.
What support and resources did they access from Our Place?
- The Relationship Manager, who provided consultancy and coaching support to the Steering Group as part of the Our Place process, was very important to the project. The Relationship Manager guided the group through the process, particularly the cost-benefit analysis (CBA), and provided valuable advice
- HALE and an Officer from the Neighbourhood Team at the Council attended training on CBA and logic models to inform this. CBA involves comparing the total expected costs of a project with the total expected benefits, to see whether the outcomes outweigh the costs and by how much. The logic model took them through the steps needed to reach the intended impact from the project. They found the CBA very worthwhile for planning the service: “I really liked the logic model. That to me was the best bit of work, the logic model and the CBA.”. It enabled them to show the potential cost savings to agencies, such as the police and the social housing provider, InCommunities, to secure their involvement
- The Operational Plan also proved useful –
“having to write it and think it through…steers you…gives you actions to achieve what you’re trying to achieve and, again, is useful if you’re trying to prove it to another organisation”. It was “really worth it and to then really think through a logical approach to make sure we’re getting the right stakeholders in.”
- The peer review events were also helpful. The feedback helped develop the operational plan and the group felt very motivated by it
- It was helpful to have a set of stages to work through, as long as they allowed for some flexibility, and the funding for the different stages paid for specifics, the flat and Navigators
- Whilst the group felt the timescale for funding was very short and the role of Our Place delivery partners was confusing, overall they were pleased with this whole process
Benefits of Our Place approach
“If we can say that we’ve skilled up three local residents … that was my bottom line. The fact we now have a flat is also tremendously exciting.”
- Our Place provided a more structured, formalised approach than the organisations might normally use in a project of this size. The CBA showed the potential cost savings to partner organisations, whilst being part of a national programme helped obtain commitment from senior managers
- The approach also means that services are tailored to residents’ needs, so they are more likely to secure help. Issues are being picked up more easily because residents are actively seeking out Navigators to discuss these with them
- It is hoped that the new skills for residents as Navigators and the community involvement in service design and delivery will bring a new commitment from residents and organisations to help address the issues in the area in the long term.
Challenges of the Our Place approach
The group acknowledge that there are tensions when creating changes to service delivery. They need to be careful to work with existing services and add to what’s available in the area.
The group could also have benefited from better data surrounding the issues in the area to inform the CBA. For example, the data from health providers suggested that only five people suffered from problems with alcohol in the area, whereas the Steering Group’s knowledge of the area suggested this was much higher. Likewise, the uncertainty surrounding the impact of changing welfare policy (such as Universal Credit) affects the accuracy of the CBA.
What have they learnt about the Our Place approach?
“Don’t be frightened by all the paperwork, it’s actually of benefit and listen to the community really and let them shape how you’re delivering”
The group also note that they couldn’t have got as far as they have without having relationships with other partners and involving people who really understand the community.
“If our scheme works here…we could be the first step for loads more Navigators and loads more community flats all over [the] country to get together and make something out of their neighbourhood.”
The Steering Group is busy seeking further funding from Postcode Lottery, Awards for All, Health Bloom and Local Comic Relief to ensure that the pilot can continue for a full year and demonstrate the approach works. They want to be able to prove that it will save money to obtain greater commitment from heads of organisations, not just their officers. It is also hoped that further funding will mean the Navigators will be able to extend their hours. It’s what the area ‘needs and deserves’.