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Health and wellbeing at the Essex Association of Local Councils

AUTHOR: DANIELLE FROST, HEALTH AND WELLBEING OFFICER AT THE ESSEX ASSOCIATION OF LOCAL COUNCILS


The health and wellbeing movement is fundamental to Essex County Council’s strategic plan and they understand that to be successful, they need the local council sector to engage with it. Local (parish and town) councils are the closest layer of government to residents and can have the greatest impact on residents’ lives, from beginning to end.

For the past five years there has been a focus which is almost exclusively on the ‘cure’ aspect of health. Times and technologies have changed and so have the needs of residents. Social Isolation is as deadly as smoking and can lead to all sorts of ill health including, mental health issues, weight management issues and inactivity. In some cases, these health impacts can be negated through non-medical means. For example, volunteering even for an hour can make people feel needed, respected and fulfilled. Or taking part in a guided walk around your village or sitting on a ‘chat a while’ bench and talking briefly to a stranger can lead to more social inclusion and a happy life.

At Essex Association of Local Councils (EALC), we support the local councils of Essex, to understand the benefits of health and wellbeing for their residents. Communities need to support communities throughout their lives and we provide information from our third sector partners, so that local councils are able to signpost their residents. We provide a communications service, informing local councils of all the initiatives being rolled out across the county. We further support them by guiding them to make Health and Wellbeing part of their decision making, precepting, agendas and planning. We also use best practice already going on in parishes to inspire other parishes.

To this end we have created a Health and Wellbeing Board for local councils with the viewpoint to promoting best practice, removing barriers and promoting initiatives throughout the county. We promote the free training which is available in parishes, for example Mental Health First Aid Training and J9 Domestic Abuse Training. These training courses have been very well received not because they make people responsible for supporting individuals but because they help councils and councillors know how to correctly signpost their residents and can help inform projects in parishes. 

To publicise all the great work going on already we created a Special County Update, highlighting all the activities, events etc which go on in parishes, to inspire and give confidence to other Local Councils to do the same. In many cases local councils are already heavily engaged in the agenda, just under a different name and we provide support for them to bring it together under one umbrella. We actively search for funding opportunities for them to access too.

We will be holding a Health and Wellbeing Conference on 22 April 2020, to give local councils inspiration and practical advice on how to engage with the Health and Wellbeing movement. No effort is too small and we are here to remove barriers and encourage participation. This transformational thinking will further increase the profile and importance of the Local Council sector as they continue and grow their role in supporting their residents to lead happier, healthier lives.

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