Communities where everyone belongs

Published: 22/01/2024

Author: Research in Practice

What do we mean by communities? New resources explore what those working in adult social care can do to create communities where everyone belongs.

The resources are included within a chapter of a new Evidence Review. The review has been co-produced by Research in Practice and Social Care Future. Groups of people with different experiences of accessing adult social care worked together to discuss issues that are important to them and outline the five key changes needed in social care to unlock an equal life.

The chapter highlights different aspects of what we mean by ‘community’, with a particular focus on the importance of accessibility and co-production.

What do we mean by communities?

People can belong to many different types of community, and these communities help make up people’s individual identities. Communities can be defined in a number of different ways, including physical, geographical or ‘communities of interest.

It’s about people, not just place.

Within communities it is important to consider the barriers people face to both physical and digital access. In particular disabled people, whose physical access can play an important role in preventing loneliness and promoting wellbeing. Within the resources we explore the importance of having the social model of disability at the heart of how communities are designed and maintained. Adult social care also plays an increasing role in the digital inclusion of people with care and support needs. In the clip below, Nadia Clarke reflects on the importance of disability access and inclusion training.

Co-production in civic design is essential to tackle ableism and support disabled people/anyone with any type of mobility issue to feel like part of the community. This section shares examples of co-production in civic design, including a dementia village in The Netherlands.

Promoting and supporting communities

Grassroots community organisations play an integral role in providing services and activities to communities, however the ongoing cost of living crisis has had a huge impact on voluntary and community organisations. These resources highlight challenges, including lack of funding and increasing demand for services, outlining how local authorities can support them and how social care work and volunteering intersect.

Commissioners, in particular, need to support innovation – and not just the type of innovation they approve of!

Unused spaces can be transformed to house useful services, creating focal points in communities, for example, Doncaster’s Talking Shop, which aims to provide high street access to mental health services. In the video below, Bob Jones discusses how unused spaces can be used in a way that benefits communities: 

Promoting communities

To empower and support communities, it’s important to be support innovation. Working together and disrupting the expected way of doing things can lead to positive change within communities. Moving away from static/building-based services to provide more flexible, accessible services is just one aspect of this.

Communities have the power to effect change, but it can often feel like they don’t.

Social care should embrace and prioritise work that fosters connection. Social prescribing community-based activities such as arts and creative activity groups, gardening, volunteering, or team-based sports can support people to take greater control of their own health and wellbeing and make them feel like part of a new community.

Sharing your changes

Everyone is encouraged to find action points in the review that are relevant to them and consider how they can be achieved. Think about how these actions will have a direct impact on the lives of the people you work with. If you are someone who draws on social care yourself, please share this resource with any workers you know.

Research in Practice would like to hear from those who use the Evidence Review. In the spirit of co-production, you could contact us jointly with someone with care and support needs. We would be keen to feature your stories in podcasts and blogs.

A brighter social care future: co-producing the evidence to make five key changes

This Evidence Review brought together groups of people, with different lived experiences of social care, to talk about five key changes needed in social care in order to unlock an equal life.
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