Moving forward with Community Partnership in Highland
In early November 2023, the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) attended the Community Partnership Conference in Inverness, which brought together members of the third sector, health and social care professionals, and council leaders in Highland to encourage collaborative working, share ideas and concerns, and build strong and trusting relationships. As an event centred around partnership working and fostering authentic connections across sectors, the themes of integration were consistently championed throughout. Highland, in the north of Scotland, was the first area in Scotland to press for radical reform and a partnership agreement between Highland Council and National Health Service Highland was established in 2012. Known as the Lead Agency Model, NHS Highland took responsibility for planning, resourcing, and delivering adult health and social care services. In a reciprocal arrangement, the council became the lead for children’s services.
The conference, which was set up in partnership by Connecting Carers, the Highland Hospice and Highland TSI, played host to a wide range of speakers from across the sectors, including academics, council leaders, and third sector directors, with each presentation being followed by an opportunity for delegates to identify barriers, challenges and next steps for community partnership. In line with this, the seating arrangements for the day were deliberately designed to encourage cross-sectoral collaboration, with tables consisting of delegates from a range of diverse organisations to truly harness integrated working.
Professor Tony Chapman, Director of Research in Policy and Practice at the University of Durham, delivered a speech on partnership trends in the third sector entitled “why is it difficult for small community groups to partner up?”, which highlighted that partnership working increases as organisations make more money, and that partnership must be worth it for all parties involved for it to succeed.
Shona Sinclair of SKS Scotland spoke about community partnership evaluations, highlighting that NHS social workers have found that people are more likely to engage in partnership if it is local. Jo Ford, Chief Officer of Skye and Lochalsh CVO, presented examples from a case study in successful partnership working. Ian Thomson, Head of Service at Quality Assurance NHS Highland, then illustrated what care systems could look like in small communities, such as those situated in the Highlands.
David Allen, Deputy Director at the Scottish Community Development Centre, spoke about the need for services to be provided more locally to make them more valuable and reciprocal for both providers and individuals. Jennifer Baughan, Whole Family Wellbeing Programme Manager at the Highland Council, spoke about how to plan for partnership by emphasising partnership working across sectors and highlighting person centred programmes, the utilisation of GIRFEC, and the harnessing of UNCRC as vital to their work.
Integration was a reoccurring theme woven throughout the conference, with delegates asked to work collaboratively in groups to reflect on the information provided following each section. Throughout the discussions, there was a recognition that those from across the health and care sector attempt to achieve the same shared goals through different means, with it being desirable to create strong relationships across sectors and increase collaborative working to achieve common objectives more efficiently. These thoughts were reflected back to the room by a panel of stakeholders, which included the ALLIANCE, NHS Highland, the Highland Council, the Scottish Parliament, and Grant funders.
The beauty of the third sector is that it is largely without arbitrary or bureaucratic restraints, meaning the themes of integration are allowed to thrive more proactively at a local level. The Community Partnership Conference 2023 provided a great platform for the third sector to shine, highlighting the sector as leading the way on integrating communities more effectively by fostering authentic relationships and encouraging people to work across sectors to collaborate on shared goals, champion lived experience, and harness community involvement for the benefit of community health and wellbeing.
The ALLIANCE is the third sector intermediary for health and social care in Scotland. Working together with members to improve the wellbeing of people and communities across Scotland, working collectively to influence policy, practice and service delivery.