John Cassidy analyses Scottish Communities for Health and Wellbeing’s Blueprint for a Healthier Scotland and looks at how communities have responded to Covid-19
Many have put forward comments on this being a time of crisis and challenge and also of opportunity. Many have commented that the window of opportunity may be short lived and we have to “reimagine and re-evaluate’. Many have commented that deep wounds have been exposed and we must not “just slip back” into “old ways”. Many have started to embrace the idea of “building back better”.
Communities and their fantastic responses to the current crisis are at the centre of much thinking about the future. The language is positive, the rhetoric strong. We must support and trust local delivery and community solutions. We must build on the foundations of community power. We need to channel the surge of community spirit into a lasting framework of community power. We need to put neighbourhoods and communities at the heart of a new wave of decentralisation. We must embrace the potential of localism.
The comments on the big picture are less positive. It is argued that state capacity has been drained by the scale of the crisis. There is a growing and certain economic recession. Governments will fall back on traditional levers. “In many places stubbornly paternalistic attitudes persist in the public sector,” one of the respondents said. Overall, it’s not really a very optimistic outlook.
However there is no shortage of sound advice for governments and decision makers to help ensure a positive journey out of the crisis. Not a lot of detail on how to however.
“Build on an old idea whose time is now: the power of community”.
“Invest to protect, strengthen and grow local organisations”.
“Strengthening local resilience will help to ensure that we centre our economic future around citizens, wellbeing and environmental sustainability”.
Loneliness and lack of social contact have been shown to increase inflammation, depression and dementia. Air pollution increases the risk of dying by 6%, obesity by 23%, alcohol abuse by 37% and loneliness by 45%. We need each other and in the future we do need to meet, have tea, talk and hug. We need caring neighbourhoods. We need energised, able, thriving communities.
In Scotland we have an amazing asset…our voluntary, community and charitable organisations. We have organisations using community led approaches which make a fundamental difference to the lives of individuals, families and communities day-in- day-out in many of our most disadvantaged communities and neighbourhoods. We do celebrate localism and, during this crisis, thank goodness. Seventy eight community led health and wellbeing improvement organisations make up Scottish Communities for Health and Wellbeing (SCHW). SCHW has just produced, to present to the Scottish Government, a Blueprint for a Healthier Scotland. The blueprint is grounded in practice, supported by research and structured round a heap of common sense. As one of SCHW’s critical friends commented, “It is doable”. It is a “How to do it” proposal that would help tackle many of the challenges and responses highlighted in the first five paragraphs of this article. It is available on SCHW’s website and has been sent to many organisations, networks, politicians of all parties and critical friends of SCHW. It will be presented formally to the Scottish Government in the near future and is an opportunity to do something differently. So let’s do it, support the blueprint. It really is doable!
John Cassidy is chairman of Scottish Communities for Health and Wellbeing (SCHW)