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Engaging and empowering communities: Our shared commitment and call to action

At a National Leaders seminar key public sector leaders and people with lived experience came together. Their purpose was to develop a ‘shared narrative’.

Simon Stevens, CEO NHS England, delivered a speech in which he stressed that national agencies can and should unite to create the conditions for success – a view endorsed by all who were present.

Engaging and empowering communities is an ‘outcome’ of that seminar. It builds on the consensus view that the health and social care sector must transform its relationship with communities, or risk failing to meet the challenges it faces. While social care policy and law calls for communities to be placed at the heart of health and care services, there is the recognition that formal care services cannot achieve this alone.

This document offers a ‘shared narrative’, agreed by leaders including people who use services, professionals and carers, which describes the conditions that are needed to create strong and inclusive communities.

These conditions include focussing on prevention and wellbeing to keep people well and connected. They also include developing methods of self-care and co-producing solutions with community members Evidence suggests that these approaches can deliver the outcomes that matter most for people, as well as value for money. Local areas can decide their approach, but there are some principles that underpin all community empowerment approaches. These include:

• Taking an approach which recognises that people have skills and knowledge that can and should be used in their community.
• Using co-production because we know that when people’s lived experience is valued alongside professional expertise it leads to better shared solutions.
• Cultivating ‘social capital’ - the social connections that lead to neighbourliness and civic engagement.
• Encouraging communities to value diversity and grant equal access to all their members.
• Shifting power and control from public services and professionals to the community
and those who are marginalised and seldom heard.

Leaders, together with people who use services and carers, have agreed some actions to drive this work. This includes:

• Health and Wellbeing Boards to take a lead role in engaging and empowering communities.
• Commissioners to make sure that the strengths of citizens and professionals is central to public service planning and design. The health and social care sector to apply the same evidence and use simple measures to show the benefits of
empowering and engaging communities.
• All stakeholders to drive the ambition that shows that communities are central to future health and social care systems.

Leaders have agreed to work together to support detailed actions that will support communities to be central to a future health and wellbeing system.