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'Joined-up services will boost health and cut inequality'

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On our watch, we are seeing increased health inequalities and stalled life expectancy.

For many areas there is also the challenge of ongoing funding cuts to local government combined with demographic pressures. This is leading to us looking to a different way of working.

Some of this is grounded in practice we are familiar with, like asset-based community approaches.

It is also good to see the whole-system approach where the central focus is people and community. We are not doing things to our residents, but working with them. This empowerment has many upsides, community cohesion being an important one.

Local communities are ever-changing, creating growth and new opportunities on the one hand, as well as problems around health, social care, the local economy, housing, transport, education, planning and business.

Partnership working across sectors is now crucial to turn this myriad of need into thriving towns and cities, in turn reducing silo working and fixing faulty communication and coordination between organisations.

For us in Croydon it is about creating a person-centred way of working with key partners and most importantly the people themselves. Together we examine what an individual may need to be well.

This is becoming built into all Croydon services and is reflected in our recently published four-year corporate plan. At the heart of the plan is the need to develop collaboration across the borough to create a seamless system of information, engagement and service delivery.

Croydon LBC’s operating model is expanding and enhancing a home-grown holistic approach called Gateway that focuses on prevention and early intervention, providing wraparound services for residents where the council is the point of first resort, not last.

In 2017-2018 alone, the Gateway approach has helped over 2,400 families avoid homelessness, given budgeting support to over 14,900 people and supported over 4,700 people on universal credit to improve their digital skills.

The One Croydon Alliance is a local partnership with Age UK Croydon, Croydon Clinical Commissioning Group, Croydon LBC, Croydon GP Collaborative and South London and Maudsley Mental Health Trust (SLaM).

It is helping people to improve their independence and quality of life. Last year alone, 62% fewer patients have needed care packages six weeks after hospital discharge and around 450 residents spent less time in hospital, or none at all.

Working together to produce more joined-up services will ultimately help us all to improve everyone’s physical and mental health and wellbeing. Moreover, this will reduce the inequalities that blight this country and are catalysed by poverty, not just of income but also other things such as opportunity, friends, support and aspiration.

Rachel Flowers, director of public health, Croydon LBC

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