Delivering community support across Scotland
How our Community Link Workers work with people in GP practices to improve their long term health and wellbeing
By Sovay Fitzpatrick, Programme Lead Community Link Worker services
It has been an exciting journey for With You since we joined Scotland’s Community Link Worker programme back in 2019.
Our Community Link Workers work in GP practices providing non-medical support with personal, social, emotional and financial issues. These include low mood, anxiety and stress, social isolation, money and poverty issues, and bereavement.
This is one the core services available through GP practices in Scotland. They help reduce demand on primary care by diverting people to the right sources of support within the community, including welfare rights organisations and peer support groups.
They also work to address health inequalities created by deprivation, protected characteristics, geography and demographics.
Where we started
With You has supported people with drugs, alcohol and mental health issues for over 50 years giving us a lot of skill and experience in working with people in deprived communities and supporting people to change their health and wellbeing behaviour.
This experience allowed us to research and develop a brand new model for Community Link Workers. We started using this model when we won our first contract in Glasgow at the end of 2019. We received excellent feedback from clients, GPs and commissioners, with 100% of clients saying they felt:
- listened to
- treated with compassion, dignity and respect
- connected with the right sorts of support
We built on our achievements in Glasgow by taking our model to new areas in Scotland including East Lothian, Renfrewshire and Argyll and Bute.
We now have 44 staff working across 73 GP practices. In 2021 we supported around 2,500 people.
Why our Community Link Worker services are unique
With You provides Community Linker Worker services in four areas of Scotland — more than any other third-sector organisation.
Here are some of the reasons behind our growth and impact:
We have a flexible service model
We’re the only third sector provider offering Community Link Worker services in both urban city and remote, rural areas of Scotland.
Each of the local areas we work in is unique and our approach flexes and bends to the needs of those areas. We recognise that each patient population has different needs and we tailor our services to those needs.
Glasgow has the highest levels of deprivation in Scotland. As a result we do a lot of work around poverty relief, child poverty and the impact of poverty on mental health. We also have specialists working specifically with asylum seekers and homelessness.
Argyll and Bute and East Lothian meanwhile have much more rural and remote populations. As well as addressing poverty we offer support with a lack of access to services, social isolation and an increasingly elderly population. We help to identify gaps in services and work to fill those gaps by working with local organisations.
In Renfrewshire we work in all 29 GP practices in Paisley, supporting people with mental health, long-term conditions, deprivation and much more. We also work in the villages where isolation and lack of access to services are major issues.
We offer high-quality therapeutic interventions
We’re not just a signposting or referral agency, we use our skills to deliver interventions while people are with us. This high-quality, structured experience is what gives us great success rates.
Our model allows us to offer evidence-based interventions, such as motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioural approaches. These help people change their behaviour around health and wellbeing and sustain this change over a longer period of time.
We’re experts in small group work
Small group work is very much a part of With You. We’re experts at hosting groups and helping people connect with peer support.
We have innovated by supplementing our one-to-one work with small group work. Our online groups offer support with sleep, chronic pain, women’s wellbeing and more. Initially developed during Covid to meet the needs of remote services, we saw real positive change happening for people through this work.
For example, over 80% of our online sleep support group reported improved sleep within three weeks of learning self-management techniques. After six weeks, this had increased to 92% of participants.
Meanwhile 100% of the participants in our women’s wellbeing group reported an improvement in their wellbeing and mental health at the end of the course. In addition, 100% reported that it had helped to decrease their sense of isolation and increase their connection with their community.
Our high satisfaction rates show that we‘re doing things right but we’re constantly looking at ways we can improve and develop our service.
Our staff report high levels of satisfaction
Our workplace culture and staff support ethos is high on our agenda, and we have an excellent staff retention rate. That’s what enables us to deliver such a high-quality service.
Our staff survey results show that 100% of our staff feel supported and trained sufficiently to do their job, and 100% feel they can make suggestions and innovations to improve the service.
Our staff have a huge amount of compassion and determination and are willing to put everything into their work.
We have a robust management infrastructure
We have invested in a management infrastructure that allows us to provide safe and effective services. We share learning across all four areas we provide services in and contribute to national link-working forums.
We’re forward thinking
We constantly ask ourselves what our Community Link Worker services are going to look like in a year or two. The demand for our services is huge and we need to develop new ways to meet that demand.
We couldn’t do what we do without our wider network of partnership organisations. Our role is an intermediary role, connecting people with the right support. But we also offer people effective, evidence-based interventions while they are with us, and that’s what makes us unique.
Some of the changes we support people to achieve are so significant they will have a lifelong impact for them. The opportunity to do that is hugely humbling.
We want to see as many people as possible and make sure they have as good a therapeutic experience as possible. We aim to equip people with the tools they need to improve their health and wellbeing in the long term. It’s all about promoting self-management, access to peer support and empowering people to take positive steps.
Please get in touch
If you would like to know more about our Community Link Worker services,please get in touch.
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