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Backing communities to drive reform

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I recently spent a few glorious days on the Norfolk Broads. My family and I charted a course full of adventure and discovered that although 8ft 6in is sufficient bridge clearance for a boat 8ft 6in high, it helps to duck.

By leaving behind familiar ways of working, we rediscovered - in uncomplicated ways and on a constrained budget - the best bits about family life.

That’s pretty much what we are doing in Essex as a whole. With the Whole Essex community budget we’re trying to inject some simple common sense into the commissioning and delivery of public services.

It means working in new ways, and certainly challenges the current system, but the evidence tells us it’s the right way to go.

Supporting community and family resilience is key to improving outcomes while managing down demand

Take the integration of health and social care commissioning. The current system can be disjointed: incentives are in the wrong places, costs are shunted around, demand pressures are huge and citizens lose out.

In a period of major organisational change for both the NHS and Essex CC, our community budget proposals set a vision for a more integrated system, enabling as much support as possible to be delivered safely in the community.

This project is now being delivered through the NHS integrated planning process - developing integrated commissioning plans between each of the five Essex clinical commissioning groups and Essex CC.

The draft plans were presented to the Essex health and wellbeing board in March and describe the strategic direction of each of the Clinical Commissioning Groups between 2013-14 and 2015-16. They include commissioning priorities, financial challenges (a funding gap in excess of £350m is forecast across the Essex health and care system by 2017) and the implications for integration.

Supporting community and family resilience is key to improving outcomes while managing down demand. We’re gaining an improved understanding of community capacity, building stronger connections between individuals and devolving commissioning and grant funding.

It’s reassuring to see the importance of people, families and communities at the heart of our most ambitious and radical public service reforms. The scene is being firmly set for the learning from community budgets to be rolled out nationally.

Dan Gascoyne, assistant director of corporate policy, strategy and partnerships, Essex CC

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