Simon DuffyLocal Area Coordination is leading to significant improvements in the lives of people with disabilities and communities in the areas it has been implemented, according to a new report.

It is also creating significant efficiencies and cost savings, and is reducing demand for social care, health and other public services, the report, ‘People, Places, Possibilities: Progress on Local Area Coordination in England and Wales’, published by The Centre for Welfare Reform, said.

Local Area Coordination takes a different approach to transforming public services. It involves embedding a local area coordinator in a neighbourhood who then forms relationships, spots opportunities and helps people meet their own needs before they fall into crisis or need public services. Local Area Coordination is a prevention strategy that does more than prevent need; it builds community capacity, while also improving the responsiveness of public services themselves.

The report, written by Ralph Broad, director of the Local Area Coordination Network, said Local Area Coordination is now well established in Derby City and Thurrock and is being developed in Swansea, Isle of White, Suffolk, Cumbria and Derbyshire.

Local Area Coordination was first developed in Western Australia in 1986, where it has proved highly effective. But it is a model that requires thoughtful implementation, because its effectiveness relies on working closely with local neighbourhoods and appointing local area coordinators with the right skills and attitude. Implementation in England and Wales is coordinated by the Local Area Coordination Network, which is hosted by Inclusive Neighbourhoods.

Dr Simon Duffy (pictured), director of The Centre for Welfare Reform, said: “As austerity bites deeper then leaders with vision in adult social care will want to learn from Local Area Coordination. We are still under-estimating what people and communities can achieve. However positive change will only come when people work with the integrity and thoughtfulness that is described in this report. Local Area Coordination takes communities seriously in a way that most public services have forgotten.”

Broad said: “Social care and the health system is at a crossroads. Instead of increasing eligibility thresholds and more severe crises we need to turn towards a system which meets needs early and which helps communities grow stronger. Local Area Coordination offers a single, local, accessible point of contact in local neighbourhoods. This simplifies the system, reduces duplication and focuses on enabling citizenship for all. This is the direction in which we must turn.”

Brian Frisby, director of prevention, personalisation and professional standards at Derby City Council, added: “If Local Area Coordination is done well and implemented effectively then the results can be truly astonishing. In just the first 12 months, working with approximately 50 people, our evaluation identified a £800,000 saving for the health and social care economy as people reduced their use of public services.”

Les Billingham, Head of Adult Social Care Services in Thurrock Council, said: “Local Area Coordination is at the forefront of whole systems transformation in Thurrock. We believe Local Area Coordination offers a real opportunity to work with the whole person in the place where they are most likely to experience good outcomes, their community, and at a time that represents the best opportunity for sustainable improvements, before they hit crisis.”

One local citizen using Local Area Coordination said: “The local area coordinator is genuinely interested in me and does not have an agenda. I feel completely in control and that the local area coordinator is on my side. There are things that I have done that I wouldn’t have been able to do without the support of the local area coordinator.”