Healthy neighbourhoods case study: Building health on the Havelock Estate

At the Havelock Estate in LB Ealing, housing association Catalyst, the council and Let’s Go Southall are working with partners to bring about a ‘healthy transformation’ for its residents. As part of Catalyst’s Healthy Neighbourhoods Programme, this case study explains how the partnership has put wellbeing and tackling inequality at the top of the agenda and is building health on the Havelock Estate.

Southall: how health and place are intertwined

Like many deprived parts of the UK, Southall faces multiple and complex social issues. 663 residents took part in a survey which revealed that 43% of Southall residents do less than 30 minutes of physical activity per week (compared to 27% in LB Ealing and 25% in the UK overall).

Other problems include inactivity, a high incidence of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, childhood obesity and high levels of antisocial behaviour. These challenges are exacerbated by the poor quality of, and limited access to, local green space for residents to use for healthy outdoor activities.

People in canoes building health on the Havelock Estate
Local residents could be prescribed activities like canoeing as part of social prescribing efforts supported by Catalyst and local GPs.

The Havelock Estate, located in Southall, is bordered by a railway line to the north and the Grand Union canal to the south. Previously the estate was difficult to navigate and in need of investment, with some spaces harbouring antisocial behaviour.

In partnership with LB Ealing, Catalyst has driven the regeneration of the Havelock Estate, with Phase 1 now completed. During this phase nearly 300 new homes were built, the majority of which are for social rent or shared ownership, with homes also available for private sale. The first phase of the regeneration also included 6,000 square metres of improved green space including play areas, doorstep green space and parks.

Both partners saw the potential to go beyond the provision of new homes and sought to ensure a fairer start and healthy lives for all, supporting thriving communities.

While Phase 1 of the estate regeneration was underway, LB Ealing launched the Let’s Go Southall project in 2017. This initiative is one of 12 Sport England pilots across the country, all of which are testing systematic approaches to tackling inactivity and acknowledging the strong link between health and place. In a survey for Let’s Go Southall, 79% of participants said that their physical activity levels had increased, while 74% said their mental health and wellbeing had improved. Let’s Go Southall is now working to accelerate and scale up its programme.

The work of Catalyst and the Let’s Go Southall project have ensured that the health of local people is at the forefront of change. Read on to find out how these partnerships are flourishing and starting to enhance the neighbourhood and improve the health of residents.

Establishing community relationships

Pop-up engagement events in open spaces and neighbourhood action days such as  litter picking helped Catalyst and LB Ealing start conversations with residents and demonstrate their commitment to improving the area. Catalyst used these opportunities to talk to residents about their priorities and how they’d like to get involved in future projects.

Woman serving tea at a community event on Havelock Estate
Engagement events were an opportunity to strike up conversations with residents.

This led to the development of the Bixley Triangle Project. The Triangle was an overgrown patch of land next to the canal that was thoroughly inaccessible and littered with needles and soiled clothes. Catalyst purchased the land as part of the regeneration of the area and worked with local policing teams and environmental groups, such as Southall Transition, to clear and level the space. It now boasts beautiful flowering fruit trees and bulbs, and sees visits from nursery children who attend annual summer picnics there.

Developing initiatives for health

As part of the Havelock Estate regeneration, numerous projects and initiatives have been developed to make healthy activities more accessible, with hopes to have a long-term impact on the wellbeing of residents.

Social prescribing

Due to their established presence in the area, Catalyst were invited to take part in a social prescribing pilot in 2018, alongside Canal & River Trust, Elemental (a social prescribing software company) and LB Ealing. Catalyst worked with local people to map the resources and activities available nearby that already contributed to health and wellbeing. This revealed a canoe club and a women’s exercise group offering classes for only £1.

Catalyst then shared this information with local surgeries so both GPs and patients would know what was available in the area. They further developed their relationship with one GP practice in particular – working with the Patient Participation Group to evaluate the accessibility of local facilities and suggest improvements.

A community link worker, employed by Catalyst and paid for by the GLA Active Londoners Fund, was able to spend time identifying barriers to participation and what motivates people to exercise. She attended classes and groups with people who lacked confidence so that they didn’t have to go to their first session on their own. She also trained activity providers so that they could receive referrals from GPs for people with long-term health conditions or those who have never done any structured form of exercise.

The social prescribing project included a digital platform with options for healthy activities such as a gardening, yoga and canoeing. Prior to the pandemic, 30 residents took part in this project, developing better links within their community as well as benefiting from beginning to exercise. During lockdown, the project was adapted to provide online and telephone-based support to 230 Southall residents, helping them to stay fit and well and keeping them in regular contact with Catalyst’s link worker.

Residents were given pedometers by the link worker as an incentive to remain active if they did not feel comfortable attending group classes. The information and outcomes from these initiatives were used by Let’s Go Southall to inform its wider health programme.

Reviving the canal

Catalyst have also worked closely with Canal & River Trust, with both partners acknowledging that the estate’s residents had not been taking advantage of the fantastic resources offered by the canal. They worked with local schools, community groups, volunteers and the London Probation Service to host regular action days along the towpath.

The activities included cutting back vegetation, filling gaps in the hedge and litter picking – all of which made the canal pathway more attractive and accessible. A new kilometre-long route now also features a welcome sign and step count markers. Residents have told Catalyst they now feel safe and welcome on the towpath and have come to value it as a place to exercise and connect with nature.

Building health on the Havelock Estate: Group of people standing on canal towpath, with a canoe in the water
The launch of the 1km towpath route. Image courtesy of Catalyst.

Encouraging active travel

A cycling roadshow in summer 2020 encouraged children who had been adversely affected through the first lockdown to become active over the holidays. Catalyst held summer cycle schools and Dr Bike sessions, and provided over 300 families across the area with cycle activity packs and helmets. At Havelock, Catalyst partnered with Sustrans to pilot a family cycle hub between April and September 2021, during which 16 adults took part in cycle training, 20 bikes were issued on a bike loan scheme and 280 bikes were serviced.

Key learnings

  • Build on the resources, facilities and partners that are already in place to promote healthier lifestyles. Find ways to promote these through well-connected or well-trusted people in the area.
  • Make behaviour change for people who are physically inactive as easy as possible. Work with providers to make sure new and potentially cautious members feel welcome – and promote activities!
  • Recognise that change won’t happen overnight. Invest time and energy when working in areas or with people with major health issues, change won’t happen overnight. The community link worker at Havelock had the time to develop relationships with organisations and residents. They also had the experience and resources to find solutions to overcome barriers. Some people will need a much more personalised approach.
  • Go the extra mile to support social prescribing. Although the NHS has now embraced social prescribing as a method for personalised care, simply setting up a system is not always enough. Give individual GPs and primary care settings as much up-to-date information as possible so that they can offer residents a broad range of activities that might interest them.