Leicester City Council and its partners have used community involvement in regenerating housing and the neighbourhood on the Braunstone Estate. With explicit health and wellbeing objectives, the approach has heavily involved local residents in developing and running community facilities.
Key learnings for other councils
- a partnership approach
- open and honest dialogue from all parties with clear achievable objectives
- a support mechanism for residents in a leadership role is a crucial factor in the successful
- transfer of asset management to communities
- projects have addressed health and wellbeing in an incremental way - looking at people's whole lifestyles, rather than with prescriptive, targeted approaches
- in many cases, projects have built up the capacity of local residents, encouraging them to become mentors themselves or even employees.
Bad housing involves a number of factors going beyond people's own homes. These include the surrounding environment, local access to services and facilities and community provision.
Research suggests that living in a deprived neighbourhood may have the most negative health effects on poorer individuals. This is possibly because they are more dependent on collective resources in the neighbourhood (Stafford and Marmot, 2003). Distance from recreational resources also appears to affect the physical health of people in deprived neighbourhoods (Voigtlander et al, 2010).
The Braunstone Estate in Leicester has had for many years the worst health record of any neighbourhood in the East Midlands. The council and its partners considered poor housing and the rundown state of the neighbourhood to be major factors.
The estate attracted almost £50 million New Deal for Communities (NDC) funding. This was to regenerate the environment, provide improved infrastructure and enhanced employment opportunities. In this way it aimed to improve the health and wellbeing of the estate's residents.
Who was involved?
Many departments of Leicester City Council, with partners in other sectors including health, police and the voluntary sector have made significant contributions.
Residents on the B-Inspired Board, which now runs the Braunstone Community Association (BCA), has been invaluable in getting services and activities right for local people. Residents also serve on the different steering groups.
The community network established by B-Inspired ensures that information gets down to a street and neighbourhood level. This is through ‘The Alert', a regular newsletter and the grapevine of community volunteers.
The problem and how it was tackled
The specific health and wellbeing objectives of the regeneration programme were to:
- increase quantity, quality and accessibility of primary care services
- provide local facilities for sport and exercise
- ensure babies and children up to four years old have the best start in life
- reduce teenage pregnancies
- reduce drug and alcohol misuse
- promote lifestyle changes - smoking, diet, exercise
- support those with mental health problems
- provide advice and support for vulnerable people and minority groups.
A state-of-the-art health and social care centre was built on the estate. This is a partnership between Leicester Housing Association, Leicester City West Primary Care Trust (PCT), BCA and Leicester City Council.
The centre contains:
- a café
- GP surgeries
- community nurses
- physiotherapy staff
- mental health advisers
- family planning services
- child behaviour advice
- drug and alcohol counsellors all under one roof.
The Community Services section of Leicester City Council was heavily involved in developing community facilities in the area. The city council and partners developed a co-ordinated approach to regenerating the estate, improving housing and community facilities in tandem. At the heart of this approach was a commitment to supporting residents themselves in the running of community facilities.
The Grove is a refurbished building which now provides sporting activities through a multi-use games area and a venue specifically for young people.
The Brite Centre was purpose-built and houses:
- a library
- an adult learning centre and customer services
- early years and childcare facilities
- community rooms
- a café.
The Cort Crescent Community Centre provided an opportunity to explore community asset transfer. It involved an established group of committed local residents taking on responsibility for the building and programme of activities. The centre offers classes, programmes, drop-in activities and special events for people of all ages.
Outcomes and impact
Illness rates have declined and the proportion of residents feeling "downhearted and low" has reduced from 40 per cent to 36 per cent. There has also been a reduction of residents who smoke and an increase in the number who are satisfied with their GP (BCA, 2009).
Sport and physical exercise has increased significantly. In 2002, 69 per cent of people took part in some form of sport or physical activity on a regular basis. This had increased to 86 per cent by 2010.
Following the setting up of B-Inspired and the commitment to local involvement, more people on the estate are volunteering. More than 100 people from the city engaged in B-Inspired's Achievement Project to increase opportunities in sport.
Local residents are engaged in the Neighbourhood Forum, the B-Inspired programme and in the running of the Cort Crescent Centre. There are many other activities that have enhanced their self-esteem and wellbeing.
Teenage pregnancy rates in Leicester overall in 2008 were down almost 25 per cent since 1998. There have been significantly higher rates in the wards which form the Brownstone Estate. Their reduction has contributed significantly more to the city's overall reduction.
Crime and anti-social behaviour have reduced on the estate.
Residents have improved skills, qualifications and incomes. More than 60 per cent of working-age residents now have some form of NVQ or related qualification compared to 53 per cent in 2002.
There has been a major improvement in ‘satisfaction levels', especially in terms of housing and overall quality of life conditions (SURGE, 2009)
What could have been done better?
While there have been improvements in smoking cessation, satisfaction with GPs and healthy eating, other areas have seen slower progress. The number of residents stating they are in "good health" and are satisfied with access to GPs has increased only slightly.
In addition, sticking to deadlines has not always been possible and these should have been more realistic.
BCA has now accessed a number of new income and grant regimes. These will ensure that some current services will be enhanced and continued beyond the end of the NDC programme in 2010.
References and further information
Neighbourhood deprivation and health: does it affect us all equally? Stafford, M. and Marmot M. (2003), ‘International Journal of Epidemiology', Vol.32, 3
The impact of regional and neighbourhood deprivation on physical health in Germany: a multilevel study, Voigtlander, S., et al (2010), BMC Public Health
Steve Goddard, Head of Community Services
Telephone: 0116 2526504