I recently spoke to Ariadna, who is the Council’s Local Area Co-ordinator in Clifton. Ariadna originates from Argentina, and I just love hearing from people who have moved from overseas to establish a life and career in York – it brings such a refreshing perspective. Ariadna is doing some amazing work in the Clifton area, and has some fascinating stories to tell:
What do you do, and how do you benefit the local sector?
Local Area Co-ordination is an evidence based, strength based and person centred approach. We help people to stay strong, safe and connected to communities. There are 8 of us in York – we all cover different wards in the city.
60% of our work is with individuals and families – we hold a caseload of 60 people or sometimes more (especially during the pandemic!) we receive these introductions from all parts of the system and from communities/neighbours too. We really get to know the people we working with, we don’t need any formalities such as assessments to do this. We have a natural conversation with the person and we explore what their vision of a good life is and walk alongside them to help them achieve this.
20% of our work is about community capacity building – this means that we know our communities so well that we can identify gaps, assets, we can help communities to start new groups/projects or we can help these groups to grow by advertising them or by attending them with the residents we walk alongside.
Not only we help people to achieve their vision of a good life but we also reduce pressure on services with our work – as we are very flexible – we can do a lot of things that aren’t in other teams’ remit. With our work we prevent lots of costly admissions to hospitals, or referrals to other statutory services.
What inequalities in York are you most passionate about and why?
I’m really passionate about working with migrants and minorities in York. I’m a migrant myself and I know how difficult is to arrive to a new country without family or friends.
Getting your head around things in a new country, starting all over again, not having a job, joining a GP surgery, not speaking the language can be overwhelming so I like to help them to transition this.
I was lucky enough to have met Bianca Vartic – the community involvement officer for migrants for City of York Council. We are both migrants and passionate about helping other migrants in York. This year we joined up and we offered a safe space for migrants in the new community hub (St Joseph’s Church in Clifton) to meet, get advice and information and make new local friends. They really appreciated this space and they felt so comfortable and safe with staff that have the same lived experience as them. We can’t wait to be able to do it again once things start to look more “normal”
Who are some of your favourite organisations in York and why?
It’s hard to choose favourite organizations – they all do incredible jobs.
I really like Refugee Action York – I went to one of their hubs on a Sunday and it felt like home. Everyone takes something to eat and share, they have English lessons, support and advice on benefits, employment, etc. There are so many cultures in one room at the same time – it’s fascinating.
Community groups have been amazing during the lockdown too – York Travelers Trust has started a food stall every week and St Luke’s has increased the frequency of their foodbank too due to the demand. People in Clifton really need this help at the moment and they are so grateful for them.
I really enjoy working with Changing Lives too – they have some amazing staff and we do a lot of collaborative work together.
What does success look like for you and your work?
For me, success at work is about people achieving their vision of a good life or people achieving the little goals towards that vision. I just love seeing people’s faces when they say “I don’t suppose you can help with this” and I reply “I can help you with whatever is important to you” – it’s such a flexible role and helping residents achieve something they’ve been needing help with for a long time but no one could help feels like a massive success as a Local Area Co-ordinator.
Success is also when community connections happen or a new group that was really needed in the community open its doors.
In my personal life, success is achieving my own vision of a good life, living mindfully, completing my to do list at the end of the day and managing to fit in my day all the things I have to do, work, cook healthy, exercise, clean, tidy up, sleep well, keep in touch with family and friends. Life is so busy nowadays – so little achievements like that make me happy.
How has coronavirus affected your beneficiaries?
Coronavirus has affected communities really hard.
People that lived comfortable lives with well paid jobs, mortgages, cars, etc lost their jobs and now rely on Universal Credit. They can’t afford to use their car and they can’t pay for their mortgages, bills, etc. All of a sudden they have to rely on food vouchers when they were used to eating what they wanted or following specific diets.
Other people who already had financial issues, mental health issues, chronic diseases, the elderly feel more isolated and depressed than ever as they can’t attend face to face groups. We have worked really hard with volunteers to minimise the impact of groups closing. Jennie Cox and Susan Wood in the Council have set up a digital inclusion project as well that kept people connected to their family and online groups. We worked hard making sure everyone can get advice and information over the phone and we continue to do home visits when they were absolutely essential on a case to case basis.
I met a family that migrated to the UK from South America just days before the first lockdown – unfortunately all the plans fell through and they were left without jobs, food, and unable to pay for the rent. We secured supermarket vouchers, food bank vouchers, support from the school to buy the uniform for the little boy, English lessons for the parents and we helped them to access benefits and employment advice. We managed to help them to stay afloat and now their situations is a lot better, they both have jobs and the little boy has adapted in the school really well, but they had a really difficult start/first few months, which tends to be the case for any migrant but the pandemic made it 10 times harder. The pandemic has affected everyone really badly regardless of their circumstances.
What does 2021 look like?
I think it definitely looks better than 2020 – we have stronger communities and more resilient residents and staff.
It will be even busier for us Local Area Co-ordinators as we have such a high profile in the community now.
I think community groups will be very well attended as people will be desperate for a face to face chat. I really can’t wait!
We might be able to have summer holidays too! How exciting. We have all worked so hard this year – we really need some time off in the sun.
What do you love about York and what would you change?
I find York very friendly, I wouldn’t live anywhere else even though I’m a big city girl. At first I struggled with it being so quiet, now I love it.
I love the fact you get the best of the two worlds. There are loads of green spaces and also city assets – like shops, cafes, etc! You can choose if you want to go for a shopping spree or if you need some time down and go on a walk and see some cows, sheep, horses and they are both at the same distance. You can even do both in a day. You don’t get that anywhere. I also love how historic it is, seeing the remains of a castle when on my way to the supermarket is something that I will never take for granted.
What I would change: I would make York more diverse – 90% of the time I find myself being the only non- British person in the room especially in work related environments. I wish more people would choose to migrate and stay permanently in York.
And finally, how do people get in touch with you?
The best way to contact me is through via email at firstname.lastname@example.org