The Links Worker Programme in Glasgow, community development and cuts to the service.

I was recruited as a Community Links Practitioner (CLP) by the ALLIANCE when the programme expanded from its initial seven test sites to 15, in 2017. In the next years we expanded further to have CLPs working as part of primary care teams within 52 Deep End GP practices in Glasgow and 16 in West Dunbartonshire, along with 2 now based in Trussell Trust foodbanks.

Looking back just 6 years on from when I took up the position, the change and growth the programme has seen is considerable. However, certain aspects have remained stagnant or gone in the wrong direction. The level of need in practices where we’re based is ever-present, as demonstrated by recent numbers of referrals made (750 to ALLIANCE Glasgow CLPs this August alone; over 8,200 in the year to end of August 2023). Despite this, the Links Worker Programme in Glasgow is being severely cut by a third come April 2024, with direct implications for our team and the communities we serve. As a Deep End GP in Glasgow wrote, ‘reducing the CLP staff numbers and spreading them over a bigger area is a not an improvement but a disaster’.

In the most deprived areas in Glasgow we exist to tackle health inequalities by working alongside individuals who face a broad range of social issues impacting their health and wellbeing. Not only is capacity being reduced to work 1-to-1 alongside people, but so are chances of delivering positive changes to entire communities across the city. Another focus of the CLP role is community development, which takes time, skill, experience and dedication to achieve. CLPs identify gaps in social provision in their areas, build relationships with existing organisations and work in partnership to meet them. For instance, partnering with SGN (Scottish Gas Networks) CLPs can now give food and fuel vouchers to individuals and families in crisis.

Over the years many groups, activities, classes and courses have been established or are being formulated, such as a community podiatry service in Govan being planned. In some cases, too, CLPs deliver projects themselves having first built relationships and trust with participating individuals. This year, CLPs at Pollok Health Centre delivered two successful ‘Long Covid and Wellbeing’ courses and later in September it has been organised for ALLIANCE health walks attendees to come together and visit Linlithgow Palace to walk.

My own example I return to is of delivering Seasons for Growth, sessions ‘to build resilience and bring hope and confidence to adults who have experienced significant change or loss’. One participant I worked with had recovered from cancer, and then subsequently lost his son to the disease. Giving feedback afterwards, he told me he had been able to put away the order of service from his son’s funeral and instead display only photos of happy memories. It allowed him to walk a step further in coming to terms with his loss. My fear of these cuts, amongst others, is of no longer being able to plug these local gaps, leaving individuals to just go without. Since joining the Links Worker programme it’s seemed clear to me that the needs of the communities and individuals we hope to meet must be foremost when planning or considering change. Faced with the coming changes in Glasgow I’m just grateful for those, small and large, we see daily for now.

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