Helping people to help themselves – community resilience and self-reliance.
Hear from Nick and Euros on why community resilience and self-reliance is important
Why is this important?
The recent spending settlement is likely to leave most public services performing worse in 2025 than on the eve of the pandemic – when performance levels were already much worse than in 2010. While funding in protected areas shields some of the most vulnerable members of our society, this is still unlikely to enable key services like the NHS and Social Care to return performance to pre-pandemic levels.
Given these financial challenges, public services are showing a growing interest in creating the conditions where communities and individuals are encouraged and able to do more for themselves with less call on councils and other public bodies for help and assistance. Managing demand through strengthening communities and individuals may be a technical term, but it is fast becoming the new starting point for a swath of councils and public service providers wondering how to address their funding gaps.
What are we doing?
On February 1 Public Health Network Cymru held its online seminar on Community Resilience in Wales. The event showcased both positive examples and recent research on how communities during the pandemic stepped up to do more for themselves and how this is being embedded to help support organisational transformation. There were inspirational stories of the benefits of this strand of work but also the challenges ahead.
Audit Wales also had the opportunity to present on its recent report ‘Together we can’. Drawing on our extensive research and fieldwork we set out the challenges facing councils in shifting from ‘doing’ to ‘influencing’ and ‘encouraging’ others to act. We highlighted the strengths of current work – the focus on volunteering, the growth in community hubs, the use of community asset transfers and the value of community connector roles. All of these are helping councils to divert people to find other solutions and are helping to lessen demand.
However, we also noted that much more needs to be done to embed this shift.
In our work we drew on examples from across Great Britain to highlight learning on what works from elsewhere and where a step change in Wales is needed. In places as diverse as Argyll and Bute, Oldham, Crieff, Bristol and Oldham, we are seeing the emergence of a range of reforms that prioritise strengthening capacity within communities to get on with it. This is leading to better outcomes for residents and communities by developing their independence and resilience. It can also help to save money through operational and financial efficiencies. What is common to all of these examples is the sense of momentum felt – often ‘from the ground up’ – and that driving change yourself is better than waiting for change to happen to you.
To help councils along this tricky transformation we also published a self-evaluation tool to help them take stock on what they are doing well and where the need to strengthen activity. Completing this self-evaluation will provide councils to map out their path to change – identifying what they need to do differently. It will not be easy and tough choices need to be made. But it is also better to choose your journey than have some else choose for you.
In addition, given this is an agenda that is going to become ever more important, we are also planning two events with the Good Practice Exchange. These are taking place in North Wales on March 28 and in South Wales on April 19. The events will highlight the importance of strengthening community resilience and self-reliance and will showcase positive practice from across Great Britain. Find out more and book on our events page.
About the Authors
Nick Selwyn is an Audit Manager at Audit Wales with responsibility for the Auditor General’s national studies in local government and local audit work at National Park and Fire and Rescue Authorities. Nick is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Housing and has worked for Audit Wales since 2005. Prior to joining Audit Wales, he worked in several local authorities in Wales in Housing and Social Services.
Euros Lake is a Senior Auditor in our local government team and has worked for Audit Wales since 2013. He works on a variety of local and national reviews and coordinates delivery of our performance audit programme at two authorities in North Wales.