Reducing health inequalities in Clacton-on-Sea

Jon Bashford, Director of Research at Breaking Barriers Innovations discusses the Clacton Place programme and how this will be working with NHS England and NHS Improvement to as part of the Core20Plus5 programme.

As I look out over the sea front in Clacton, North East Essex the expanse of golden sandy beach reminds me of the holidays of my childhood, playing with sandcastles and licking sticky candyfloss from my fingers. To my young eyes, the English seaside town was a place of wonder and opportunity but today, walking back through the town centre you can see the struggle that people living in a place like Clacton face every day. This is an area that suffers from some of the worse health inequalities in the country, as the once thriving seaside economy has declined and good sustainable jobs that provide hope and a decent standard of living are harder to find.

Clacton Place is a programme that seeks to improve health outcomes through employment and skills, in recognition that good employment and having the right skills to find work are the most effective way to turn back the tide on the long-term decline in living standards and health inequalities. It was the brainchild of the Director of Public Health at Essex County Council Mike Gogarty, and involves a unique partnership between Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System, the Department of Work and Pensions, Essex County Council, Tendring District Council, the community and voluntary sector, Breaking Barriers Innovations, Health Education England and NHS England and NHS Improvement.

At the heart of Clacton Place is the belief that the lived experience of local people must be the driving force behind change and that their insights, knowledge and ideas should inform the programme of work, and help design and co-produce solutions that will make a real difference to people’s lives. Too often areas like Clacton are characterised as being too difficult to fix as a narrative that only focuses on the problems makes it that much harder to address the real causes of inequalities. It is not lack of aspiration that holds people back, it is the seemingly insurmountable barriers to opportunity. This is where the anchor powers of an integrated care system can make a real difference as the partnership behind Clacton Place seeks to establish new ways of working and thinking between major employers in the region, the NHS, local government, the voluntary sector, employment support agencies, skills providers and schools.

In November this year we facilitated a day long series of workshops with the partners from Clacton Place and Dr Bola Owolabi from NHS England and NHS Improvement so that we could share some of successes from the programme to date and start planning for the Core20Plus5 work that we will be doing in 2022. Some of the highlights from that day includes:

  • Learning from partnership working with Summit Services, a small local community and voluntary sector advocacy agency, that has been helping neurodiverse service users and those with mental health problems to explore how employment support systems and working with DWP can help people overcome specific barriers to finding and sustaining employment
  • Understanding how the local district and county councils are leading work on anchor engagement to promote stronger and more targeted investment in local communities
  • Using the experience of NHS providers in changing their employment practices to be more inclusive through flexible offers on apprenticeships and work placements
  • Developing advance planning for ensuring that major new opportunities such as employment that will be provided by the new Freeport at Harwich can benefit local people in Clacton
  • Engagement between industry, schools and the NHS on curriculum design and skills for new career pathways
  • Extending the ambition and reach of the Health and Care Academy to work with a broader range of employers and pipelines into sustainable employment across sectors

A short video from the day can be viewed below:

The plan for 2022 as part of the Core20Plus5 programme is to radically upscale the lived experience work by bringing in more community and voluntary sector partners to recruit up to six cohorts of lived experience peer workers who will engage with a wide range of service users and local residents from groups that experience some of the worse health inequalities. Over the coming year the outcomes we seek to achieve include:

  • Establishing a pipeline of good quality, sustainable jobs from anchor clusters that will act as a catalyst for change
  • Engagement with 400-600 residents how these opportunities can be made accessible to all the population health inequalities groups
  • Securing employment and/or training opportunities for 60 peer researchers
  • Sustaining through Place and Community informed investment in the Health and Care Academy

Clacton Place is demonstrating how collaboration and innovation from an integrated care system can have far reaching benefits for transforming the nature of partnership into tangible outcomes for reducing health inequalities through employment and skills. It is a programme for the community, by the community and with the support of NHS England and NHS Improvement we have a template for creating lasting change that will improve lives and ensure there is hope for a new future.

For more information on Breaking Barriers Innovations Ltd, please consult the links below:

Jon Bashford

Jon is an experienced senior manager, researcher and teacher with over 30 years’ experience working in health, social care and education in the public, independent and voluntary sectors. He is particularly known for his work on mental health, veterans, drug and alcohol use, offender health and equality and human rights. Coming from a practitioner background as a Registered Mental Nurse Jon has been able to successfully bridge the gap between research, innovation and practice. He has worked extensively as a senior manager on programmes for health and social care improvement including service user, carer and community engagement. In particular Jon has a reputation for ensuring that engagement and inclusion are at the forefront of mainstream organisational change management.