For the last two years, the local strategic partnership, the Hounslow Together Board, has focused on the challenges of substantial population growth and churn, the resulting effects on social support and wellbeing, as well as increasing service demand at a time of heightened budgetary pressures. The Board has initiated two innovative projects to better understand ‘community resilience’- the ability of a community and individuals within it to cope and support one another and develop new responses. The first is a borough-level project to try and measure what we understand as the key aspects of community resilience. The second is a pilot project which looks at how we might intervene to change and develop networks at an individual level, in order to improve wellbeing and test whether this might reduce reliance on services.
Hounslow and its communities
The London Borough of Hounslow is an outer London Borough with a population of 253,957. The borough faces high levels of churn and change, as one of the most rapidly growing boroughs in London. Between 2001 and 2011 census, the population growth was 20 per cent which is predicted to increase further by 2020. There is also significant population churn in Hounslow. The 2011 Census revealed that 15 per cent of residents lived at another address 12 months before Census. In some areas this is as high as 35 per cent.
Furthermore, there are relatively high rates of migration into Hounslow. In 2011, 43.3 per cent of the population was born outside the UK. Migration tended to be concentrated in certain areas of the borough, but this is changing with higher rates of migration. A comparison of the 2001 and 2011 Census shows that there are significantly more areas with new migration. Hounslow also has one of the most diverse populations in London. In 2011, the three most common ethnicities were white British, Indian and Pakistani. The borough has a number of recently emerging populations, including Afghan, Algerian, Bulgarian, Burmese, Romanian, Sri Lankan and Nepalese communities. Diversity is increasing: in 2011, 49 per cent of borough residents were from BAME backgrounds (ONS Census). As of 2016, this is now 51 per cent and projected to rise further (GLA). More than half of Hounslow’s population lives within the lower half of the national scale of deprivation. Overall levels of deprivation in the borough are close to the England average (ranked 151 out of 326 England LAs in 2015 Index of Multiple Deprivation), but severe relative deprivation seems to have worsened slightly. The proportion of children living in poverty ranges across Hounslow’s wards, from 12 per cent (Hounslow South) to 40 per cent (Isleworth).
Generally, Hounslow is considered a welcoming borough with 87 per cent of residents across the borough agreeing that people from different backgrounds get on well together2. Around three fifths (58 per cent) of residents agree that people in their local area pull together to improve the local area. However some initial qualitative work conducted as part of our Community Resilience Measure suggested that there are challenges for areas that face new rapid change, churn and population growth for the first time. The local authority’s strategy for driving social integration In 2011, the Local Strategic Partnership Hounslow Together Board developed the Future Borough Strategy. This sustainable community strategy provided the overarching strategy for the borough area. Even though this strategy provided broad strategic direction and a long term vision for economic, social and environmental wellbeing, the board was keen to use the strategic space created to look at the challenges that churn, change and population growth might place on the borough and on communities. It was hypothesised that churn, change and growth may affect the resilience of individuals and communities to cope with shocks. The core of this notion of resilience, is the understanding that the connections and relationships between people at a neighbourhood level help people to manage and cope with change. This led the Board to initiate two innovative projects to test and develop the hypothesis and thinking.
The first project is the development of a tool to map and measure ‘community resilience’, which includes measures of ‘neighbourhood support. The second, Cranford Stronger Together, is a proof of concept project to look at whether we might support people to develop their own personal social networks as a means to improve their own wellbeing and develop their own personal resilience. As discussed below, these projects on personal and community resilience aim to place relationships, social networks and neighbourhood support. Hence ‘resilience’ becomes a means to understand the workings of cohesion and social integration at a local level.
Hounslow deputy Leader Cllr Mann chairs the Hounslow Together Board which is made up of representatives from the council and local partners, including Hounslow Youth Council, Hounslow Economic Business Forum and Voluntary and Community Sector Representatives.
Cllr Mann writes of the board:
“I have chaired the Hounslow Together board for two years. The nature of the board has evolved over time and it has taken the form of a ‘think tank’-type space for strategic stakeholders to engage on the critical long term issues facing our borough. It is very rare opportunity to meet with local leaders in a dedicated space where we work in a collaborative manner to envision, test and trial innovation and different ways of working. In the context of funding cuts and increasing pressures on local authorities, the voluntary sector and our partners, these spaces are unusual but necessary if we are to proactively plan for the future.
“Considering the resilience of our communities to support each other and respond to change is a key area of focus for Hounslow, as it impacts on people’s wellbeing as well as future demands for services. The Hounslow Together Board have championed these projects to develop innovative ways of approaching and thinking about these issues. We want to ensure that the borough is a place where people enjoy living and choose to stay throughout their lives.”
Under the guidance of the Local Strategic Partnership, Hounslow Together commissioned Social Life to develop a predictive mapping and insight tool to consider community resilience3. This predictive tool uses data from the Understanding Society Survey to highlight areas where there may be challenges with wellbeing, neighbourhood support, isolation and competence. We have been testing this visual mapping tool and compared it to our own ‘hard data.’ We are increasingly confident of its ability to ‘red flag’ areas where resilience might be an issue. The key working assumption is that resilience - the ability of a community and individuals within it to cope and support one another - is central to dealing with changes at a local level, particularly in the context of significant reductions in public sector spending. However, the scale and nature of population growth, churn and change in Hounslow risks fragmenting communities and undermining their ability to cope. The resilience measure developed for Hounslow has used WARM (Wellbeing and Resilience Measure) framework developed by the Young Foundation as the starting point. This was reviewed and revised to account for new data, particular needs in Hounslow, and to make the framework more streamlined and accessible.
The resilience measure developed for Hounslow draws on two types of data:
- Hard data, that describes the circumstances of small areas in terms of service use, or social needs. This is generally broken down to lower level super output areas (LSOA).
- Predictive data drawn from national surveys held by government or research councils. This has been modelled to predict key elements of resilience at the very local level. This is at output area (OA) level.
We have identified the six predictive “resilience clusters” - groupings of people likely to have similar characteristics indicating resilience - through a factor analysis. This offers a detailed analysis of the relationship between responses to different questions about how people feel about the places they, as live reported in the Understanding Society Survey (USS). These “resilience clusters”describe key aspects of resilience;
- Low wellbeing: lower satisfaction with life overall, income, amount of leisure time, and concerns about managing financially.
- High wellbeing: higher satisfaction with life overall, income, amount of leisure time, and concerns about managing financially.
- Neighbourhood support: high social solidarity and high belonging
- Isolation: low levels of belonging and local levels of social solidarity
- Competence: high levels of capability and low levels of stress
- Emotional fragility: high levels of stress and low levels of capability
To create the resilience clusters, the Social Life team conducted a factor analysis to investigate how different USS questions relate to the core concepts of resilience and to identify the questions that will make up the wellbeing and resilience measures. A cluster analysis was then performed to group the questions and factors together to develop clusters of respondents with different levels of resilience. By analysing who lives in an area, the different clusters are represented within the population which enables a prediction of strengths and weaknesses of the area and paints a picture of its likely resilience. This is then tested against actual data about the place. This is exploratory and experimental work.
This report shows how the resilience assessment maps across Hounslow’s neighbourhoods, and discusses the detail of our approach to analysing the data. These were mapped visually. The maps of most relevance in terms of social integration are Neighbourhood Support, Isolation and Competence which are below. Based on an analysis of the hard and predictive data, areas were identified where information appeared to be contradictory. Using an asset mapping approach, Hounslow explored these areas to try and understand the local dynamics and test the model. The qualitative validation process helped us to develop a ‘rich picture’ of the area and test hypothesis developed from the data. Initially the focus was on areas where there seemed to be a difference between the hard and predictive data, and this has been extended as we have looked at other areas and issues. We have used the Community Resilience Tool on two levels, firstly as a borough-wide insight tool and secondly as a local level to understand a specific issue. We are becoming increasingly confident that this tool helps to flag and identify areas of where resilience might be an interest or concern and to provide us with a set of measures to better understand how communities might react to change.
The Cranford Stronger Together (CST) Project is an 18-month ‘proof of concept’ project to prove that by strengthening an individual’s social networks, we can improve wellbeing and resilience, and reduce social isolation and reliance upon services. It focuses on the Meadows Estate (1,755 residents), one of the top 10 per cent most deprived in the country with high economic inactivity, children living in income-deprived households and high users of services.
In 2015, the RSA conducted network analysis and ethnographic research on the estate. 14 per cent of the population completed surveys on wellbeing, social networks and service use. The research revealed a highly fragmented and isolated community, illustrated in the social network map below:
The research also concluded that low wellbeing correlated significantly with high public service use, as ‘struggling’ individuals often faced multiple, interrelated problems.
Based on this research, the project will work with 50-60 very high service users referred from six service areas A Networks Officer will engage one-on-one with individuals that have been identified as socially isolated and high service users by selected service providers. The Network Officer will help individuals to understand their social networks (how to build, make and keep close relationships and new connections) and levels of wellbeing. Support from the Network Officer will be tailored to each person’s needs and priorities.
Additionally the project will also help to link together various groups, centres and organisations in the area so that people can meet and get to know each other and undertake new activities as a community.
Quantitative and qualitative data will be collected and analysed throughout the intervention with each individual. In-depth analysis of the data and project design will be evaluated by a team at the University of Bradford.
Both of these projects are exciting, innovative initiatives which draw on the strategic leadership of partners with a real desire to investigate how social networks, community support and relationships work together at a community level and how they might support and hinder community resilience.
Initial work in both these projects suggests that resilience is a complex interplay of personal, community and environmental factors. The connections between people have the potential to both promote and hinder neighbourhood cohesion and integration. We are hoping that by looking at how we might measure community resilience and help people to develop their social networks, we might develop a more nuanced understanding of relationships and how they underpin positive social integration and community cohesion. The rigorous approach discussed above in documenting, measuring and recording our findings shall enable the board to use this work to inform future policy development and thinking around communities, social cohesion and integration.