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Irene Beautyman, Place and Wellbeing Partnership Lead at the Improvement Service and Public Health Scotland, shares how the Shaping Places for Wellbeing Programme is supporting work to build healthier places to live, work and play. 

In Scotland, there is renewed central government recognition of the importance of local places in supporting the wellbeing of people and the planet. This is central to the new National Planning Framework 4, which sets out a strategy for improving wellbeing in Scotland by creating places that are healthy, sustainable, liveable and productive.  

To accomplish this, the Shaping Places for Wellbeing Programme, funded by the Health Foundation and Scottish government, is putting wellbeing at the heart of decision making about local places in seven towns in Scotland. 

The aim is to improve health and reduce health inequalities among people while also addressing the health of the environment. No single organisation or sector can achieve this alone, and a system-wide approach is needed.  

Scotland’s Place and Wellbeing Outcomes provide a common set of features that all sectors can consider when making decisions about a place, helping them to work as a whole system toward shared and measurable aims. The outcomes pull together a range of interrelated national ambitions that are too often considered in isolation. They support consideration of the full breadth of potential impacts that a policy or action may have on a place and the people who live, work and play there. 

Wellbeing at the heart of decision making 

The Shaping Places for Wellbeing Programme embeds these Place and Wellbeing Outcomes into decision making about places. It has launched the use of Place and Wellbeing Assessments to inform and support decisions about proposals and plans in local areas.  

The assessments bring together local data and the perspectives of partners and communities to consider the possible impacts of a plan or policy and how different actions might influence wellbeing. Assessments undertaken to date range from a large-scale, public sector review of the NHS Forth Valley Health Care Strategy to a local, community-based review of a Neighbourhood Action Plan. In all cases, the assessments have ensured that an action’s full impact on a place is considered prior to implementation. No other process or assessment currently does this. As such, the assessments form a valued first stage for both Health Impact Assessments and Integrated Impact Assessments.  

With so many stakeholders involved in – and affected by – decision making in every place, Place and Wellbeing Assessments provide a structured process to identify how a defined plan, policy or proposal will affect a place, the wellbeing of its communities and the environment. These potential impacts may be positive or negative, intended or unintended – the purpose is to surface them for consideration in decision making.  

The national Shaping Places for Wellbeing Programme team together with local decision makers have carried out 30 assessments across seven project towns over the past two and a half years.  

The assessment process has three key steps: 

  1. Local-level quantitative data are used to build a profile of the local population and identify inequalities.  
  2. Conversations with community organisations and local stakeholders are used to build a picture of the local area, ensuring their needs and views are understood and community action already happening in an area is identified.  
  3. Stakeholders from across sectors then come together for an assessment session in which they consider all the information from the first two steps, the Place and Wellbeing Outcomes and the potential impacts of decisions. From this, a range of recommendations is captured to maximise the impact of decisions and mitigate any potential negative consequences.  

The process has been well received across the project towns, with recommendations being embedded and having positive impacts.  

Changes have been made to the West Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care Partnership Strategic Plan as a result of this assessment. I am confident they have enhanced the strategic position and the development of the associated delivery plan. 
Margaret-Jane Cardno, Chair of the Clydebank Steering Group, Head of Strategy and Transformation, West Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care Partnership 

The programme team is capturing and sharing learning about the approach so that others can adopt it, with many resources and impact stories already available online.

Learning so far

The programme has shown how effective national support can help embed wellbeing as a central consideration in local decision making. Through the programme, relationships have been built and strengthened between local and national government, such as through our quarterly National Learnership Cohort meetings, where we share findings from our seven project towns with representatives from Scottish government, COSLA, Public Health Scotland and the Improvement Service.  

Relationships have also been built between sectors, including councils and health and care services, as they come together to consider their own plans as well as each other’s. Participants have reported that this has broadened their perspectives and helped them look ‘with fresh eyes’ at the impact their decisions have on places.  

The programme... is... bringing people together that wouldn’t perhaps originally work together so closely, and it's helped to breakdown those silos across the town and it’s really allowing us to implement the Place Principle a lot better.
Emma Fyvie, Senior Manager – Development, Clackmannanshire Council

Other examples of how Place and Wellbeing Assessments have informed local decision making and policymaking so far include: informing the location of a Wellbeing Hub and school development; developing a collaborative whole-council approach to housing strategy, with particular focus on transport, active travel and community cohesion; and alignment of local council and NHS workforce transport plans on active travel ambitions.  

In the final few months of this initial phase of the programme, the focus is on embedding this new approach to incorporating long-term, collaborative thinking about wellbeing into decision making and creating the change communities seek.

Find out more about the programme and read impact stories from the seven project towns on the Shaping Places for Wellbeing Programme website, on Twitter @place4wellbeing or by contacting irene.beautyman@improvementservice.org.uk

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