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Meeting the leadership challenge for Scotland’s health and housing

The six-month pilot, supported by the Scottish Government, will draw on the combined expertise of 16 leaders from the NHS, Local Government, and housing associations, with eight representatives from health and eight from housing.

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Improving lives for communities across Scotland by creating stronger links between health and housing is the main aim of a new national project. The Association of Chief Officers of Scottish Voluntary Organisations (ACOSVO) and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) are bringing a wide range of partners together to examine some of the major challenges being experienced by people across the country.

The six-month pilot, supported by the Scottish Government, will draw on the combined expertise of 16 leaders from the NHS, Local Government, and housing associations, with eight representatives from health and eight from housing.

The programme is being delivered by ACOSVO as part of its Leadership Exchange Programme and aims to strengthen collaboration and knowledge sharing between the groups.

Sally Thomas, Chief Executive, SFHA, said: “Housing associations have a huge role to play in improving people’s health and wellbeing across Scotland. Many people do not live in a home that is warm, dry and safe, with people on low incomes being disproportionately affected. 

“This programme will provide a unique opportunity for some fresh thinking and the exploration of even more effective collaborations between the health and housing sectors.”

ACOSVO has delivered the Leadership Exchange Programme since 2012. The initiative has now paired over 480 individual leaders across sectors, including high level members of government, not for profit chief executives, and banking CEOs, for knowledge sharing; skill development; and providing intelligence and insight into different cultures, constraints and opportunities. 

While previous exchanges have been between individual leaders, this pilot group model has the potential to be replicated by any groups seeking to develop collaborative working and improve service delivery and outcomes for the people of Scotland. 

Phili Wetton, Member Services Manager at ACOSVO, and project lead for the initiative, said: “Considerable work has already been done by health and housing, across some regions of Scotland, where we see housing, public health, and health and social care colleagues delivering together fantastic outcomes for individuals and communities. 

“The ACOSVO Group Leadership Exchange programme will enable senior leaders from health and housing to effectively reflect on this positive impact and discuss ways of working to benefit even more of our communities in the years to come.”

The programme comes at a time of major public health reform, with the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) having agreed six national public health priorities in June 2018. The Public Health Reform team is now encouraging organisations to use a whole system approach to deliver the priorities. Essentially, this means fully understanding local issues, working collaboratively, and continuously reviewing plans to allow them to evolve over time to meet changing local needs.

Eibhlin McHugh, Co-director, Public Health Reform, said: “We’re currently in the middle of a major period of public health reform, with partners in both health and housing having important roles to play.

“We know this won’t be easy and, to address health challenges and drive down inequalities, we need to change the way we work together. We must build on the experience of existing networks to strengthen collaboration, place the experience of local communities at the heart of everything that we do and work together using a whole system approach to deliver better results for Scotland’s health.

“By using the shared public health priorities as a starting point, all those taking part in the new leadership exchange programme can start to lay the foundations for positive change and a Scotland where everybody thrives.”