London Borough of Tower Hamlets: Tower Hamlets Community Advice Network

Tower Hamlets Council worked with the Tower Hamlets Community Advice Network (THCAN) to launch a borough-wide referral system which links residents with a wide variety of local advice and support services.

The initiative

Tower Hamlets Council work closely with the Tower Hamlets Community Advice Network (THCAN), a partnership of local advice centres which provide free advice and representation to residents across Tower Hamlets.

In 2021 the network launched a borough-wide referral system which links residents to a wide variety of local advice and support services, including robust routes in and out of Tower Hamlets Council services. This partnership is an excellent model of good practice in local authority and voluntary sector collaboration.


The THCAN digital referral system has facilitated referrals between statutory services across the local authority as well as across the voluntary and community sector. The active involvement of council teams, in particular the Tackling Poverty Team and Food Clubs program, has increased the ease and efficiency of connecting residents with the support they need. This is particularly crucial in light of the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing cost of living crisis.

Supporting residents

A key purpose of the system is to facilitate a move from signposting to a referrals mindset. Since launching the referral system in March 2021, the number of referrals has been steadily growing, and now spans a wide range of issues. Robust, accountable referrals are more effective than signposting, particularly when supporting residents who may lack confidence, knowledge and/or tools to access help themselves. THCAN plays a pivotal role in supporting agencies with referrals, ensuring residents can access the full range of support available to them in the easiest way possible.

Supporting service providers

THCAN has helped to foster a partnership mindset, ensuring organisations work together towards the shared goal of supporting residents more effectively. By bringing referrals across agencies into one space, it not only increases awareness of the breadth of services available, increasing access, but also makes the process of tracking progress more streamlined for the referring agent.

The integration of an easy-to use data reporting function provides organisations with full oversight of their referral data. There is scope for borough-wide reporting linking together teams and providing whole-system insight into how to best support residents. 

THCAN has helped us Social Prescribers so much. We refer patients to services in the community for support which can be very time consuming. Having this easy-to-access referral system saves us time, the patients are contacted quickly and we receive feedback once they are contacted."

Tracy Tundervary, Tower Hamlets Social Prescribing Service

Replicating the work

Over the last year, THCAN has become an essential tool for service providers to do their jobs effectively. Other boroughs interested in learning more about how this works in Tower Hamlets or about replicating it in their area can reach out to [email protected] or [email protected] to learn more.