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Working with Communities sample essay

Community: A common bond by which people choose to associate around. It is a very slippery idea. Sociologically it is almost meaningless. It can be based, for example, on: place, ethnicity, religious affiliation, leisure interests, work, traditions, politics, class, age. The list is almost endless. Neighbourhood: A residential area where those who live there consider it to be their locality. (Hawtin et al, 1994)

The more complex answer is that it depends on the community and the issues involved. In general, a sustainable community is a geographic area and includes everything in that area–human and nonhuman, animal, vegetable, and mineral. In some cases, political boundaries such as town, city or county limits might be most useful in delineating a community. In other cases, watersheds or other natural boundaries might be most useful. What is important is that the members of the community be involved in deciding the boundaries of their community and how to make that community a sustainable community. (Hart, 1998)

Within any area, the ‘community’ is likely to be made up of many different interest groups, which will come together for a whole variety of reasons. Community groups may focus on ‘place’ – the area where they live and work; or may focus on interests, principles, issues, values or religion. Both types of group may have an interest in planning issues. Some of these groups will be well established and represented. In other cases, however, interests may not be homogeneous, for example large and small businesses. Effective involvement cannot happen without a good understanding of the make up, needs and interests of al those different groups and their capacity to engage. An inclusive approach is needed to ensure that different groups have the opportunity to participate and are not disadvantaged in the process. Identifying and understanding the needs of groups who find it difficult to engage with the planning system is essential. (Communities and Local Government, 2004)

The Welsh Assembly Government proposed that each local authority in Wales works collaboratively with the corresponding local health board to prepare a Health, Social Care and Well Being Strategy, the local public health director in Swansea undertook an assessment of the health and social care needs of the population living in the City and County of Swansea. Needs assessment is a method of identifying unmet health, well-being and social care needs of a population in a systematic way. It provides the information upon which decisions about tackling those unmet needs can be made. Demand is an expressed need.

Separating a want from a need is not a simple task since many people may want things they do not need. (National Health Service, 2003) Needs assessment involves epidemiological, comparative and corporate methods to describe the problems and issues facing a population. Also addressing the provision of and access to services, activities, facilities and amenities, which are needed to respond to these inequalities. The needs assessment will draw on both quantitative and qualitative sources. It should inform Strategy priority setting and decision making which will need to take account of the most effective use of resources, clinical and cost effectiveness and the views of patients, service users and carers. (NHS, 2003)

Each needs assessment should address wider needs in addition to health, social care and well-being needs. A good needs assessment should present information on: • Mortality, disability and health-related quality of life;

• Education, skills and training;
• Income;
• Employment and the economy;
• Housing;
• Physical environment;
• Community safety and crime;
• Social capital/ civic engagement;
• Geographical access. (Welsh Assembly Government, 2003)

Factors affecting the health and well-being of communities are; social, economic and environmental factors, health promotion and education, health protection and nutrition, the safety of food, community development and regeneration and sustainable development, inequalities in health and well-being, access to health and well-being services and inequalities in access to such services, the availability of and access to public and community transport, the availability of and access to education, training and employment, the standard and condition of housing. (NHS, 2003)

The local authority and local health board must ensure that needs assessment covers:
• Children and young people, including young carers;
• Disabled people;
• Carers;
• The needs of core groups identified in legislation, in particular section 17 of the 1989 Children Act;
• Vulnerable Adults;
• Older people;
• Adults with mental health needs; and
• Children and young people with mental health needs.

This list is not comprehensive but identifies key client groups whose needs should be included in the assessment. (Welsh Assembly Government, 2003)

The Health, Social Care & Well Being Strategies (Wales) Regulations 2003 also state that Local Authorities (LA’s) and Local Health Boards (LHB) have a duty to co-operate with a wide range of partners during the preparation of the strategy, including:

• NHS Trusts
• Community Health Councils
• County Voluntary Councils
• Health Commission Wales
• Any private, business, voluntary or other organisations with an interest in the provision of health and well being services.

In co-operating with voluntary and other organisations with an interest in the provision of health and well being services, the Local Authority and LHB must include groups and/or organisations representing the interests of patients, service users and carers. The local health board, local authority and the local NHS trust, together with the community health council and the Council for Voluntary Services in Swansea are members of a Strategy Board, created to oversee the production of the Swansea Health, Social Care and Well Being Strategy. (NHS, 2003)

To achieve this goal both partners had to undertake a system known as “Community Profiling”. Community profiling is recognised as a vital stage in planning a service that will meet the needs of a community it serves. Community profiling is a systematic process of collecting, organising and analysing data about a given community and its environment. The analysis of the data collected will allow services to make inferences concerning a particular community’s needs and interests, only then can customised services be designed by selecting the appropriate materials targeted to those inferred interests and needs (Hawtin et al, 1994)

Community profiling involves building up a picture of the nature, needs and resources of a community with the active participation of that community. Greer and Hale (2002) suggest that it is a useful first stage in any community planning process, to establish context which is widely agreed. A range of methods are used to enable the community to develop and understanding of itself, these methods combine group working and group interaction techniques with data collection and presentation techniques (Greer and Hale, 2002)

The City and County of Swansea has many contrasts. It has large rural areas, a significant urban centre, and areas of wealth and of deprivation. Most of the population is concentrated in the urban areas which are mainly focused on Swansea. The latest estimate of the population of the City and County of Swansea stands at 231,300 (Mid Year Estimate, 2009). Swansea has the third highest population of the 22 Welsh Unitary Authorities, representing almost 8% of the total population of Wales (2,999,300). The 2009 Mid Year Estimates were released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on 24 June 2010. The migratory flow is relatively stable. The number of live births for the county has also remained relatively constant at 54.6 per 1,000 females and has generally mirrored the Welsh average at 56.7 per cent. (Office of National Statistics, 2010)

Projections for Wales point to a 2 per cent fall in the under-16 age group share of the population and a 2.5 per cent increase in the share of the population of retirement age by 2011. It is likely that this pattern of age will be reflected in the county, an area that already has a lower proportion aged under-16 and higher proportion of people of retirement age than in the UK as a whole. 14.3 per cent of Swansea’s residents can speak Welsh which is lower than the all Wales figure of 26.7 per cent. (Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales, 2009)

The vast majority of the population of Swansea (97.8 per cent) is white. The local black and ethnic minority communities comprise of 2.2 per cent of the population. The largest minority ethnic groups are Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Chinese and Arabic communities. The number of asylum seekers accommodated by private providers in Swansea in December 2002 was 384, drawn from 40 nationalities with approximately 31 per cent aged between 0-16. Swansea experiences relatively high levels of homelessness. In 1997, 3.2 people per 1,000 population were reported unintentionally homeless and in priority need, compared with a welsh average of 1.5. (Office National Statistics, 2010)

Using the health status rankings from 2005/2007, the rate of limiting long-term illness in Swansea was reported as 24.7 per cent. This compares with a welsh figure of 23.3 per cent. The total unemployment rate for Swansea at October 2002 stood at 3.8 per cent compared with the national rate for Wales of 3.6 per cent. The workforce of Swansea is mainly concentrated within the service sector, which accounts for almost 85 per cent of all employees. The city and council of Swansea is the single largest employer in the area with more than 11,500 employees. The lower Swansea Valley was the location of the first Enterprise Zone in the UK and as a result it is estimated that over 8,000 jobs have been created in more than 400 firms. The European Union has now granted Objective 1 status to West Wales and the Valleys. It is anticipated that in excess of £1.2 billion in grant aid will be attracted to the area over the net five years. (CSSIW, 2009)

The Better Swansea Partnership includes Swansea’s main public service providers as well as representatives of the voluntary and business sectors. Its purpose is to ensure that decision makers work together to tackle the issues that matter for Swansea. The Better Swansea Partnership has two main roles; As Swansea’s Community Strategic Partnership it aims to make Swansea a better place by leading the development and delivery of ‘Shared Ambition is Critical – Swansea’s Community Strategy’. This is a strategic role which means ensuring that key plans are delivered and that key partnerships work as effectively as possible; As Swansea’s Local Service Board it acts as a problem solver and aims to tackle a small number of service delivery issues. These are typically issues where there is a high number of providers and where citizens may find services confusing and difficult to access. These are also issues which are important to the community but which have proved difficult to resolve. (City & County of Swansea, 2010)

The Youth Offending Team is strategically managed through the authority’s Chief Executive who chairs a multi-agency steering group including Police, Probation and health partners. Oversight of the Supporting People Programme has been undertaken by a central Supporting People Planning team with representatives from local housing associations, large service providers, the Probation services and the Local Health Group. The Social Services Department is host to The All Wales Support Unit and has contributed significantly to a number of policy and service initiatives at national and regional levels. The Voluntary sector in Swansea ranges from very small organisations, self-help groups and associations run solely by volunteers to large agencies that employ over 80 members of staff.

The Swansea health, social care and well-being strategy group claim there are over 800 voluntary organisations that work within Swansea insisting that they make a vital contribution to the health and well-being of the population as well as the economy of the city. They argue that voluntary sector organisations can tackle needs which may be beyond the capabilities and resources of public sector organisations. Both the Local Authority and the Local Health Board commission a range of services from the voluntary sector to compliment existing statutory services. Family carers also make a considerable contribution to health and well-being by providing an estimated 800,000 hours of care a week in Swansea which has been given an estimated value of 187 million a year. (City & County of Swansea, 2010)

In relation to this, meeting service user’s needs and addressing their concerns can be implemented by professionals through the use of empowering the service user. Malin (1999) states that empowerment is generally known to constitute a change or gain in power by the service user. Empowerment can be seen as a process of involvement, democracy, consultation, choice and independence for the user. Malin explored the forces that community services could implement to promote empowerment. They argue that user/self advocacy mandates professional/practitioner persuasion, legal and policy imperatives are required. (Malin, 1999)

The review found that some people in the City and County of Swansea are served well by Social Services and the prospects of services improving in the future are judged to be promising. The authority has made good progress in children’s services, where there have been improvements in social work practice and in the overall quality of services provided. Child protection services are diligently delivered and there is a wide range of responsive and imaginative family support services. Looked-after children are receiving better services although improvements are needed in their educational attainment.

The authority needs to speed up the time taken to complete assessments on children and address the number of children without an allocated social worker. (CSSIW, 2009) Social services for children are led by the Head of Service (child and family) who reports to the corporate director of social services within a discrete social services directorate. The child and family senior management team comprises four principal officers, the safe-guarding children’s coordinator and the business manager. The manager of the multi-agency youth offending services also reports to the head of service. Child and family services share, with adult services principal officers for staff training, personnel and communication and strategic management. Teams for assessment, care management and service provision are located over ten sites within the city of Swansea. There are 378 employees within the children’s division. (CSSIW, 2009)

The authority continues to provide directly an extensive range of well-regarded family support services. All referrals for the authority’s family support services go to one source, so that support may best be targeted to the identified need and to avoid duplication. The increasing demand for support services means that it is not always possible to offer the amount of support a family might truly need. There is a continuing tension in family support between early intervention/ prevention and child protection and services have to be offered to families in greatest need. Core services have to be targeted to children on the child protection register or who have recently been de-registered and are sometimes required 2 or 3 times per week. There were concerns at the time of the last review that some families were missing out on services because they did not have an allocated social worker.

This has changed somewhat because of the reduction in the amount of unallocated work and because of an easing of requirements for some services – services from the Child and Adolescent Support Team (CAST), community day care and flexi care home support can all now be offered in the absence of continuing case management. CAST provides a range of groups for young people and a considerable amount of their work is with schools; the team can work with the whole family and make links to the children’s education.

CAST workers can negotiate with schools to put a package together to keep a child at school or return a child to school. There has been an increase in referrals and PARIS ICT system has assisted in this. CAST team can see the initial assessments on the system and the referral form to the team is self-populating. Social workers and service-users praised the flexi homecare service, in particular, for its speed of response to a request for service. Services’ staff records their involvement with families and the advent of the electronic recording system has meant that social workers can have speedy access to these records. (CSSIW, 2009)

Good quality services for children and families are provided by partner agencies and the following are some examples. Barnardo’s runs a Children Matter service in Penlan. This is a tier 2 service, based around parenting and emotional literacy. Swansea Young Families is a tenancy support project, set up by funding from Cymorth and Supporting People Revenue Grant. Three new Flying Start schemes are up and running. This is a combined service with health visitors and includes skills and language development.

The authority has 161 approved foster carers providing 305 placements, including short breaks. The One-to-One specialist fostering service has not been as successful as had been hoped and this is being reviewed, alongside all family support and residential services, as part of a new prevention and placement strategy. The authority is still making extensive use of independent fostering and residential placements although it has not formalised any arrangements for preferred purchasing or block contracting. Because of the high demand for foster placements for looked-after children, it is difficult to provide a service for respite care for children in need, where shared care with parents may be an alternative to the children becoming looked-after by the authority full-time.

The authority owns and manages three small community homes on sites at Cockett and Blaenymaes, the latter having opened since the last review. Both CSSIW and the authority have had concerns about these establishments, particularly relating to behaviour by young residents, the inappropriate mix of residents, breaches of the statements of purpose and incidents of self-harm by young residents. (Welsh Assembly Government, 2003)

The authority does not lose many carers to private agencies; and approaches are made by carers from outside Swansea to join the service because of its reputation for support. There has also been a high profile recruitment campaign which has had some success in recruiting enough new carers to keep overall numbers stable. This needs to be sustained and recruitment further developed to achieve a net increase in both the numbers of carers and the choice and skills they provide. Although the overall percentage of looked-after children in family placements is equal to the Wales average too many children are waiting for respite care or being placed out of the county through lack of local specialist and choice.

A review of Children’s Social Services in March/April 2007 concluded that; “Swansea is a large city, with the diverse range of challenges usually present in such communities. Social services have enjoyed the support of council members including financial support. The authority’s social services
have traditionally relied on a staff culture of good professional practice. Like all local authorities it has experienced the growing demands of expectations of vulnerable people in a complex modern society. Like others it has also seen the leach of skilled and experienced staff to the growing service sector and the fragility of the newer inexperienced childcare workforce.

The authority has perhaps been slower than some in recognising the impact of these changes. It can no longer rely on culture but must establish robust systems to ensure sound practice and processes. Wherever families live within the city boundary they are entitled to a similar and satisfactory standard of service from the local authority. There is still a core of good staff employed by the authority and they are the key resource for change. They need to e engaged in a process of re-establishing safe and sound childcare services and the previous “sparkle” which one staff member said had been lost.” (CSSIW, 2009)

Social services have benefited from competent management and stronger corporate leadership is now emerging across the council. There are some excellent partnerships, a healthy level of planning capacity and an established business planning culture. Swansea has a major asset in the quality and commitment of its workforce. The authority is strengthening its consultation with service users and has positive plans to modernise its information technology systems. Swansea’s overall strengths, however suggest that a faster pace of change could be achieved in some key areas to ensure that aspirations are more quickly turned into results.


City & County of Swansea, (2009). Population Statistics for Swansea. {Online} Available:

City and County of Swansea (2010) Better Swansea Partnership. {Online} Available:

Communities and Local Government (2004) Community Involvement and Planning: The Governments Objectives. London: Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

CSSIW (2009) Review of Children’s Social Services in the City and County of Swansea. Cardiff: Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales

Greer, Roger C. and Martha L. Hale, (2002) “The Community Analysis Process.” Littleton, CO: Libraries Unlimited,

Hart, M (1998) Sustainable Measures. West Hartford: Subject Matters

Hawtin et al, (1994). Community profiling: auditing social needs. Buckingham: Open University Press

Local Vision, (2008) Developing and Delivering Community Strategies: Statutory Guidance from the Welsh Assembly Government. Cardiff: Community Strategies

Malin, N (1999) Community care for nurses and the caring professions. Buckingham: Open University Press

National Health Service, (2003) Health, Social Care and Well-being Strategies (Wales) Regulations. Swansea: National Health Service Trust

Office for National Statistics, (2010) Mid-Year Population Estimates – 2009.. London: UK Statistics Authority

Welsh Assembly Government (2003) Health, Social Care and Well-Being Strategies: Preparing a Strategy. {Online} Available:

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