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Active Luton on Being flexible and local - the key to their success

Active Luton on Being flexible and local - the key to their success

Active Luton on Being flexible and local - the key to their success

Posted: Tue, 19 Dec 2023 14:11 by Riya Ahmed

Active Luton on Being flexible and local - the key to their success

By Helen BarnettChief executive, Active LutonSource: Click here

Our Navigating Local Systems work across Luton started from the premise that physical activity is beneficial for everyone – no matter anyone's age, ability or additional needs.

And so, physical activity should be everyone's business, from awareness of the benefits to access to sessions to producing information for different groups.

But was it?

Active Luton was delighted to be involved in this project, alongside our hosted Active Partnership, Be Active.

'So many 'actives'!' You may think, but we were obviously the right people to get physical activity on the agenda and all of these 'actives' made us different.

Team work

Most of the work being done around local systems was being led by Active Partnerships.

Active Luton is a wellbeing trust working across the community to improve health, wellbeing and life chances.

Our excellent relationship with our Active Partnership meant that we could lead the work on the ground, enlist their support with data and insight, and also in deciphering the technical jargon.

We felt it was crucial we present the project to local partners in plain English for maximum engagement, plus we could always enlist the Active Partnership to translate back for reporting purposes.

Our Navigating Local Systems work across Luton started from the premise that physical activity is beneficial for everyone – no matter anyone's age, ability or additional needs.

Our approach was a practical one, with the aim of achieving tangible outcomes.

However, we were mindful that this was ambitious and we sought to chunk up the system in a phased approach.

There was no point jumping right in and biting off more than we could chew.

Our work began with children's social care, is now moving on to adult social care and will go on to include services for people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

For phase one, looking at children, the starting point was deciding where we should have better links.

Why was no-one coming to us as the local provider and expert on physical activity? It was clear that it was up to us to establish connections with the right influencers.

We were fortunate that there was, and still is, an appetite for this work with the wellbeing of Luton's children - one of the central themes of the council's cornerstone 2040 strategy.

Like an octopus spreading its tentacles, we were able to capitalise on the appetite for improvement in the local children's offer.

Realising the differences among groups

Bit by bit, working through an enabler/connector strategy, we joined dots by putting people, groups and organisations in touch with each other.

By facilitating and creating this environment it enabled the same message to be spread through the growing network.

As a result, we are now positioned at the centre of the children's social care system and have been able to implement change in a number of different ways.

We now have regular contact with portfolio holders for children's services and have developed programmes to support children under the care of the virtual school and are the provider for our extensive Holiday Activity and Food programme, which continues to grow its reach and impact.

Our work has even extended across the integrated care system with our Young Person's Social Prescription programme being adopted across its remit due to the proven benefits in addressing equalities.

It's particularly interesting to note that we didn't ask anyone for additional funding as part of this phase one work.

However, additional funding did come to us and it continues to come, as a by-product of the work to educate and spread the vision.

The appetite to make it happen grew, but of course it wasn't all plain sailing.

We were reaching a strong position when Covid-19 struck and stalled our momentum, so we had to start again, if not from the baseline, certainly not from where we left off.

We also came to recognise that working with adult social care would pose more challenges than working with children's.

It's a highly complex system which we underestimated.

We anticipated the same speed of change but the work is proving much more challenging, however we're confident that it will be equally rewarding.

On a personal level, given the timing of this work in the immediate period before I leave Active Luton, it will inevitably form part of my legacy.

Reflecting on this, it's been an exercise in devolving leadership and developing a new way of thinking – right across the project team.

It's been important to set clear expectations and know who's accountable and can make things happen.

Spreading ownership for different elements of the work will hopefully spread a sense of empowerment and ensure the right reach and impact are achieved.

As a final thought, I think it's important to highlight that, although numbers are key, there are many other crucial factors to consider as outcomes and impact can't solely be measured numerically.

The quality of partnership working and enablement is vital, but less easily 'measured'.

And it's important to remember that people care about different things, so answers to a question may vary depending who's asking and that is the key to an adaptable and responsive approach to system change.

Tags: Active Luton, Active Partnership, Private, Public