Community-led care: Solutions to social care issues

12 October 2022

The launch of ‘Preseli Cares’ – a solution to care issues in North-east Pembrokeshire


Everyone acknowledges the challenge of social care. With demographic changes and uncertain economic times, there seem to be more problems than answers. Cwmpas, our development agency for positive social and economic change, is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund to work with two community partners to take practical steps to identify and trial potential solutions. One of our partners, PAVS (Pembrokeshire Association of Voluntary Services) recently launch Preseli Cares with the community in north-east Pembrokeshire[1].

The idea of communities taking a central role in developing new approaches to social care is not completely novel but in the past “Big Society”[2] has been shorthand for stepping back and leaving volunteers or local community entities to solve problems without adequate co-ordination, support and funding solutions. People are understandably nervous of reshaping services which people rely upon.

The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act calls for a greater focus on well-being, prevention, collaboration and for co-production for people’s voice and control. Preseli Cares is a “test and learn” programme, an iterative two-year process starting with conversations, surveys and workshops, involving as many people as possible in the design, testing, and delivery of a sustainable community-led model of care and well-being, built on the assets of the area. This is a concerted effort to move away from the traditional inward and downward looking approach of social care, which focus on maintaining services with fewer resources or asking how to meet people’s basic needs. “Need” itself and the ways to respond to care requirements demands a re-examination.

One of the first priorities is to develop a shared understanding of the assets of the area and think about how we might mobilise them to create solutions.  These can include anything from care homes, GP surgeries, sports clubs, paid and unpaid carers, Community Connectors, town and community councils, local businesses, community halls, voluntary and community groups, the natural environment, as well as the combined experience, knowledge, skills, talents, and ideas of all the people who live in the area.

It was clear that the community themselves have a crucial role to play in redesigning services, that true collaboration is the way to bind our places, communities, and local statutory agencies together. Hilary Cottam, who has led numerous experiments in re-designing services and relationships in the welfare state, looked to place-based action as far more likely to lead to significant and lasting improvements. She describes “thick new horizontal systems” which will help to enmesh the local assets and contributions with the statutory provision. It is not a case of “instead of”. This analogy can be expanded in north-east Pembrokeshire to consider the image of weaving, with public sector partners and statutory services forming the vertical warps, and community-led care and well-being activities forming the horizontal wefts.

Preseli Cares is the first step in helping communities find their own solution to social care issues. Considering how to enable a community to live well, rather than perpetuating existing care models, may ultimately prove more effective and be more resource efficient.

[1] The other partner is community development organisation, Action in Caerau and Ely known as ‘ACE’. Located in south-west Cardiff, it will launch ACE Cares to test and learn about community-led solutions to social care issues.