Working with Communities

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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...
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