Peter Macfadyen, Frome Town Councillor, introduced the topic. Peter explained that the examples attendees would hear about today were easy because they had been brought about in a strategic way. He explained it was also about trying to reposition the council within the community and recognising that everyone has roles.
Bob Ashford, Chair of Trustees for Fair Frome, gave a brief background of the organisation and how FTC had been involved.
Fair Frome is an independent local charity that was originally set up by FTC to address the significant level of poverty in Frome. Fair Frome provides practical solutions such as a food and furniture bank. They also arrange community dining events and are investigating setting up a white good scheme to complement the furniture bank.
Before the charity was up and running FTC made sure they consulted the community to identify the gaps and find the best way to help. FTC is now a minority stakeholder. Fair Frome do not rely on a large grant from one organisation which could jeopardise the charity if the funding was ever removed, instead they raise the money locally. In this way people feel a part of what Fair Frome does, it has also helped them to increase their promotion and there by increased the services they offer. For them this has been a much more sustainable way of continuing. Fair Frome rent a building from FTC and also received a grant of £18k.
Peter explained that this model had been really successful and showed that if FTC had employed a person directly it would not have worked so well and been as far reaching.
Jenny Hartnoll, Service lead for Health Connections Mendip, similarly gave a brief background to the organisation. Health Connections Mendip was created after a Frome doctor wanted to find a way to support patients in a holistic way. The organisation is funded by the Clinical Commissioning Group, FTC part fund the position of the East Mendip area lead. This role co ordinates the community connector training. Community connectors are anyone in the community who are trained to be able to sign post to health groups and organisations. On average 20 people are signposted per connector which has generation around 10,000 conversations. Before the organisation was set up Jenny mapped what services were available in the community and how well known they were. The next step was setting up a website listing all health groups and services available. Health Connections Mendip have had an enabling role, for example HCM put an advert in the local paper asking for people with MS to get in contact. They asked them what would be most beneficial to them which was an exercise class, which as a group of patients organise and run for themselves. Health Connections Mendip has now influenced the way GP’s run their consultations and are able to offer support through signposting.
Peter commented that HCM was well measured from the beginning which had contributed greatly to its success. Hospital admissions had gone down by 17% in the last 3 years.
An attendee asked Jenny how they find out if someone would like to be a connector. Jenny explained that that there was a lighter touch than volunteering. All they ask is, would they like to support friends, family and people in the community.
Another asked Jenny what the training entailed? Jenny said that it could be tailored to a particular group. On average it was a two hour package, which often included listening skills and behaviour change recognition. Or it could be just 10 minutes on the basics.
Jean Boulton, a Frome Town councillor, noted that by putting in a relatively small amount of funding it has attracted other funding. She said it was worth finding something that could be funded by the council on a regular basis to start making an impact.
Additional notes on this topic from the Breaking the Mould booklet can be found here.