By Joanne Harding

sunrise

Well, I guess the title of my blog isn’t strictly true. I have been around health and social care for the last 20 years – working in drug, alcohol and mental health services. The past four years as a councillor I have chaired a Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee and been the Shadow Executive for Adult Social Care.

However in May this year I was appointed as the Executive for adult care as a new administration took charge of Trafford Council. I was excited and enthused about the challenge ahead. The thought of being in a position to really shape and change policy, collaborate and be visionary was something that filled me with a real sense of purpose. I was keen to get going….

So, fast-forward 3 months and what are my observations about social care and what elected members should focus on?

In these three months I have seen that we have some amazing, incredible people working in the local sector. Social care, including the role of families and carers, needs to be celebrated as an asset in this country, and the care economy recognised as a core economy. We have some visionaries, some real “let’s make it happen people“, dedicated staff that are going all out to make lives better. I am really enjoying meeting and working with these people across Trafford and beyond.

But we need to change some things to free these people up to create the best social care future possible.

My first observation is that structures seem so rigid and inflexible, driving a very real culture of firefighting – I got an immediate sense of “this is just how we do it here“ “the market dictates”. I don’t say this to be critical, I know against a backdrop of austerity measures and no real national solutions offered to the social care funding crisis that staff, commissioners and policy makers are going above and beyond.

The financial aspect of care dictates so much. It is easy to feel like we are being held over a barrel by providers, despite some excellent organisations in the independent sector. In more affluent areas with large volumes of self-funders it is even harder to influence the market and attract staff into care roles. Can we be bolder with private providers and start driving up the quality, ensure that contracts are explicit about what we want as commissioners of services and critically that this represents what people using care and support and communities want? Just because a provider charges top rates does not necessarily equate to top quality or the best approach to support. I do believe ethical commissioning offers the way forward to achieve desired shifts with providers and people. A recent excellent article by Bob Hudson outlines this vision. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/aug/20/ethics-new-approach-outsourcing-social-care

It’s also very easy to focus purely on services for older people. It is right that much attention is focussed on this area, however social care is so much more than this. I don’t want to neglect disabled people, learning disabilities, early interventions, mental health and transitions for young people.

There is still huge amounts of working in silos. I believe that Greater Manchester devolution is an opportunity to really get the “joined up working “right and I know there are some excellent examples of cross border working, but we need more. How do we really collaborate on out of area placements? Are we across exploring creating new organisations like mutuals and cooperatives? How do we actually communicate with each other? I would really welcome a gathering of elected representatives as part of the NCASC/#socialcarefuture events in November to focus on some ideas for the future and share practical examples.

So, based on these initial reflections I set myself 3 early objectives, as I know in a portfolio so huge a clear focus and sense of direction is needed

  • Driving up quality in the care sector across Trafford (if it isn’t good enough for my mum or your mum then why should it be good enough for anybody else?).
  • Bringing communities together to tackle social isolation and grow positive links and connections (across all age groups)
  • A truly dementia-friendly Trafford

So – to conclude this first blog – I’m still in the early stages of my journey and I’ll share more as things progress in the coming months. If you have thoughts, ideas and examples – please do let me know.

Councillor Joanne Harding. Executive Member Adult Social Care – Trafford Council (Blog written in a personal capacity)

@Joanne13Harding

 

by Vidhya Alakeson

In 2014 I wrote a book about personal health budgets. I don’t consider myself any great expert in health and social care but I thought I knew something about how the system worked. I was quickly proved wrong when my eighty-year old Dad had a brain hemorrhage at the end of May which left him confused and unable to walk. It has to be said that the NHS saved his life. The challenges have all been in what followed.

Six weeks after surgery to remove the bleeding on his brain, my Dad came home, needing 24 hour care, unable to do much for himself. The experience of dealing with the NHS and social care as a family member has undeniably been a battle, although I don’t feel we have had any worse an experience than the average and we are definitely better informed than the average. I have worked in health policy and my sister is a doctor. But rather than write a familiar tale of woe, I was nudged to talk about how things should have been in the spirit of looking forward as part of Social Care Future. Here are three things that would have made a big difference.

The first is to have been fully involved as family members in my Dad’s care in hospital. He was there for six weeks but we were never involved in any physio or OT sessions, despite asking. Whenever staff did anything with him, we were pushed out and the curtain was drawn around his bed. Everyone knew he would eventually be discharged home but no one supported us to get to grips with how to take care of him. Suddenly having to care for someone who can barely walk and needs to be supported with every aspect of their life is incredibly daunting when you have no experience. To have been included as full partners in his care in hospital to prepare us for his return home would have made a huge difference and would have cost very little.

The second is to have had a single person to coordinate the myriad of health professionals who suddenly started turning up at my parents’ house. In the first few weeks after my Dad was discharged, we had visits from the dietician, the district nurse, physios from two different community teams, a nurse from the hospice at home team, nurses to take blood, someone from the incontinence service, on top of carers and my Dad’s GP. More often than not, people didn’t introduce themselves and it seemed down to us as the family to connect the dots and make sure things were a little bit joined up. For example, we had to ask the neuro physio to speak to the OT from a different team to make sure they were aware of what each other was doing. For my mum who was just getting to grips with her new reality as a full time carer, it was mind boggling. A named coordinator to help navigate the system and piece everything together would have reduced the stress a lot early on.

The third is money. Even after six weeks in hospital, we had to push to get my Dad home. He was deteriorating in hospital as far as we were concerned but there was no urgency to get him out. The cost of caring for him in hospital wasn’t an issue. But the cost of caring for him at home is.

We were lucky that he got some support on discharge but after three weeks, that stopped. Like a lot of people, my parents have too many savings to qualify for Local Authority support and we’re still waiting to see if we win the NHS Continuing Care lottery. The level of care my Dad needs means my parents’ savings wont stretch far. At £21 an hour, the waking night care he needs every night so that my seventy five year old Mum can rest and look after him in the day will cost my parents £1500 a week. My Dad’s been given a year to live so maybe they will just be financially ok but they have cut back on day time carers to try and save money, putting greater strain on my Mum.

This situation feels deeply unfair. Your likelihood of needing social care is as unpredictable as your likelihood of needing healthcare and yet the state provides large numbers of us no protection against that risk. A fairer deal on financial support feels essential.

If I’ve learnt nothing else from this experience it’s that putting people with lived experience at the heart of policy making and system design is essential. I’ve been humbled to be reminded that you can know a lot about policy and little about reality. However many clever brains apply themselves to the challenge of social care reform, without the insights of experience, we will fail.

Vidhya Alakeson is Chief Executive of Power to Change

@vidhyaalakeson

 

 

Edel Harris – Chief Executive, Cornerstone

There is no getting away from it – things in social care are challenging and it seems they are getting worse . With the emphasis on austerity and the resulting public service funding crisis, the social care sector in the UK has become an industry that in many cases has lost the focus on the person requiring care and support. Time and tasks have become the order of the day with often stressed, low paid workers following a schedule that has more in common with a manufacturing production line. The financial power sits with the commissioners of the service who are under enormous pressure to work within very restricted budgets (and often don’t feel very powerful) Unfortunately this now effectively means the trading of a commodity to the lowest bidder is commonplace and pricing that commodity to support good support or include a decent rate of pay for the person delivering the care, has become increasingly rare.

This is not going to work – especially for the future. In carrying out some market research with the people we support and their families and holding focus groups with people in the age range 25yrs-45yrs who had never had any involvement or connection with social care or social work services more generally, it was fascinating that the aspirations and expectations of those already in the system were so much lower than those who were approaching the market research as consumers with no point of reference.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Our research and more importantly our conversations with the people we support, tell us that individuals who require care and support have very reasonable expectations – they want to be supported by a small team of people who know them well and share their interests and by people with professional skills relevant to their disability or condition; they want caring and empathetic people in their lives who use their imagination and creative skills to design services with and around each unique person; and families in particular need practical help and advice to navigate the system.

What can we do? We are interested in the roles and responsibilities of support providers in this context. Despite the constraints of commissioning practices and funding cuts, we as providers have responsibilities to use our commitment to people and our experience and creativity to help build a better social care future.

We want to be part of a progressive support provider community sharing ideas and approaches and coproducing the future with people using support. To that end I want to offer a very brief glimpse of the journey we are on.

One of the main objectives of our new model is to continue to put the person at the centre of our activity and assist them to live the life they choose. Our ship wasn’t broken. Despite all the pressures, like many other organisations we believe we were continuing to provide good quality care and support. However the ship was creaking and we recognised that if we wanted to continue to meet our charitable purpose – to enable the people we support to live a valued life – a life they choose – we needed to have a serious rethink about how we did things.   We were delivering on our contracts and doing that well but there were serious limits to us being able to do all the additional things that allow the people we support to live a valued life. There was never enough time, there was no additional budget, and there were so many policies, procedures, rules and regulations which meant we were spending far too much time on paperwork and bureaucracy – valuable time that could be spent with the people we support.

Cornerstone was not established solely to be a provider of contracts on behalf of local government.   These important contracts became the vehicle upon which we could deliver our charitable purpose. However in recent years, our contracted care often provided just the minimum with less and less opportunity to genuinely place the person at the centre and provide a truly person-centred service. The human relationship between the person requiring care and support and the care-giver is critically important. It is one of the most intimate of transactions and should be delivered by people who are trusted to do a great job. This is one of the things we hope our new model will address.

What does that mean in practice? Genuinely valuing the social care profession is something we feel really passionately about. To this end we have introduced a flat operating structure of up-skilled, professional carers working in neighbourhood self-managing teams operating within a culture of empowerment and trust. Conversations about paying our colleagues the living wage have become irrelevant.

The current system serves no one well. It doesn’t have to be like this

It’s hard to put a transactional value on care and yet we all instinctively know when a human relationship, whether with a family member or a paid professional, is literally worth its weight in gold. I don’t think that is asking too much – do you? We want to be part of a better #socialcarefuture and are excited to contribute to a growing social movement to share and learn with other support providers, people with lived experience and others

 

By Aisling Duffy

connect do

Arranging homecare when mums’s dementia made life at home very difficult brought starkly into focus for me the role of the provider from a very personal perspective. We experienced a transactional, needs led process focussed largely on the tasks that mum and dad would need help with, the hours, payment arrangements etc. Important of course to get these right but the far more important questions about who would support mum, would they be able to chat with her and dad about things that mattered to them, would they be happy to wear casual clothes not a uniform (no said the provider – yes said the staff!) had to come from me not the provider. In practice we had some wonderful carers and Angela, in particular, became an important part of the family sharing in the everyday highs and lows, laughter and tears, texting me to reassure, encouraging Dad to have time out for himself. A style and approach that to be honest seemed despite and not because of the provider. And so, I was reminded yet again as CEO of a provider organisation of the important part our organisations can play in ensuring care and support is focused on living life to the full, filled with optimism, opportunity, affection and connections – the default not the exception.

This #socialcarefutures series of blogs is an opportunity to think positively and imaginatively about the part providers can and in my view should play in the lives of the communities we support. I write from the perspective of a not for profit provider. Here are my top 5 examples!

  • Partnership of Equals – working alongside and in genuine partnership with people and families is at the core of great support and the common strength of good providers. When providers fail to fully recognise this, lives are put at risk. Too often adult social care has focussed on the needs of the person, sometimes to the exclusion of anyone else in their life. People have rich histories and family relationships that are part of defining who they are. Supporting staff teams to appreciate and engage with each person’s family in a way that respects their personal history is so important. It’s not always straight forward or predictable. Every family, my own included, has their own very personal dynamics and different ways of rubbing along together that while filled with love may not be easily understood by others. I fear that often no more than lip-service is awarded to these relationships. Providers are very well placed to develop and nurture holistic support that respects the joy, trials and tribulations being part of a family brings.
  • Living Life to the full – outcomes not tasks! Providers are still too often contracted to deliver tasks and hours not outcomes and happy, healthy lives! The Alliance contract I mention below includes a set of outcome measures that were developed in partnership between people using services, providers and commissioners. Delivering on these shared outcomes will result in financial reward ‘gainshare’ for all parties and failure to deliver will mean shared financial penalty ‘painshare’. And while money is only one driver in my experience it can help focus a partnership!
  • Community Connecting – from Street Parties to Community Choirs to supporting entrepreneurs in social businesses, providers can use capacity and resource to support grass roots community development. The role of providers in providing great support to people is to support and strengthen the communities people are part of not to replace them. Certitude’s Community Choirs in different parts of London bring people from all walks of life together over one shared interest – singing! We fund the Choirmasters and negotiate the venues and each Choir takes it from there – new friendships and relationships are the natural outcomes. Microbreweries are shooting up and for some beer loving people we support in south London a partnership with Gypsy Hill Brewery has led to them developing and now marketing their own beer and learning new business [and beer tasting] skills. In my experience successful and sustainable community connecting requires the provider to be skilled and astute in assessing when to step forward and use its capacity and resources to develop community connections and when to step back and let the community take the initiative forward.
  • Systems Leadership – Providers support people who are at the receiving end of our health and social care system – who know first-hand what works and what doesn’t. This experience and knowledge is too often lost. One of the most innovative and exciting opportunities I am involved in is the Lambeth Living Well Network Alliance, which is a formal partnership between Certitude, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM), homelessness charity Thames Reach, Lambeth Council and Lambeth NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, working together to design and deliver mental health services for adults in Lambeth. We are responsible for the entire adult mental health budget and the delivery of a co-produced business plan that is intended to transform mental health services over the next 7-10 years [the length of contract]. Progressive commissioning and strong provider leadership ensure this collaboration draws on the strengths and insights of the whole community with success measured against outcomes developed with people using services. Too often third sector providers are at the periphery of systems design – in Lambeth we are at its very heart with an enormous opportunity to do things differently. Providers need to positively grab the mantel to get involved in system design and not sit back waiting to be invited to the table!
  • From competition to collaboration: At times of austerity the natural tendency can be to batten down the hatches, cut back on partnering, keep a steady ship and hope for the best! In such challenging and austere times, we need more not less collaboration. Effective alliances can lead to more innovative solutions, shared risk taking and better outcomes for people supported and colleagues. Certitude’s experiences of partnerships with the likes of the Brit School, the Tate, and Slaughterhouse have led to a range of collaborative creative ventures. Collaboration with statutory and charity partners is resulting in less use of residential and hospital care and more community and personalised support for people with serious mental illness in Lambeth. Collaboration requires openness to understanding each other’s differences, finding common ground and a shared drive and accountability to deliver change. It’s about recognising that our system is full of challenges and complexity which makes life more difficult for people we support and no one organisation has all the answers. Alignment with our values is without doubt the most important factor when developing the partnerships and collaborations that are right for Certitude. Not only do we seek great partnerships, but we aim to be a great partner too!

 

While none of this is rocket science, it isn’t how many people experience providers. Providers are in a unique position to be part of creating social care support that enables people to live happy, healthy lives both now and in the future. Making sure my ‘Mum test’ – care focussed on living life to the full, filled with opportunity, affection and connection is the expected default experience of anyone using social care.

Aisling Duffy is Chief Executive of Certitude www.certitude.org.uk.

Aisling tweets at @AislingDuffy_

Aisling is also Vice Chair of VODG and a board member of the National Development Team for Inclusion.

By Nic Crosby

gettingit

A thought: Each of us with our families seek joyful experiences, sharing, learning, playing, sitting in the bed in the morning talking ‘daft. In service land we seem to spend every day cutting joy out of children’s, young peoples and those who love them most lives, how is this right? If we wouldn’t accept it for ourselves how is it right?

I was talking with a student at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia whilst working there in April. We were talking about personal planning. He talked about a lecture from a psychiatrist who shared two stories, one of a 17 year old young man and the second of a 30 year old who is now living in an institution. The psychiatrist said if we don’t do something different and do something now the 17 year old would end up in the institution by the time he is 30.

A friend on Facebook shared information about the challenges faced by young people getting help from mental health services and how often the support is too late or their support needs have got so much greater by the time they see someone.

National research as covered by the TES[i] in June earlier in the year documented the rising (60% since 2011) number of exclusions of children and young people with an autism diagnosis and how they end up outside of mainstream education and ‘needing’ more and more specialist support.

Transforming Care, the national programme to end the institutionalisation of people is ending in a year’s time and we see little or no change in the experiences of families and children bar discussion about how life can be made better in residential schools and colleges. In fact recently, in evidence shared by Professor Chris Hatton (Lancaster University) in his blog ‘Ignorance is strength[ii] admissions for under 18’s has risen by 47%, that’s 47% in the last two years!

A good friend, working with the Macedonian government shared this “What should be noted is that every admission to an institution is a failure of us on the outside.’ (Professor Vito Flaker, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia)

These ‘SocialCareFuture’ blogs are not though simply an opportunity to list all the problems but a start seeking and finding solutions, sharing where found examples that provide a hint of a different way of doing things. Albert Einstein says it most clearly and it’s a phrase I don’t think can be bettered;

‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them’

Since the first draft of this blog there has been an increase in the discussion about early intervention and prevention in the children’s world which is brilliant to see; examples such as the ‘flagging’ software being used in Dorset (UK) to share concerns about a child and/or their family situation has led to speedier and more appropriate responses from services[iii], a checklist in Bristol (UK) around likely exclusions for young people with learning disabilities and/or autism aimed at preventing institutionalisation, work in Bavaria[iv] (Germany) to develop more youth friendly and welcoming communities, work on early intervention and with families with a centre of inclusion in Bosnia and Herzegovnia[v], the overwhelming long term evidence of the positive impact of inclusion in schools in Finland and the USA. Well publicised evidence from USA actually demonstrating the positive impact on all children’s attainment when the school is fully inclusive[vi]

An intentionally diverse set of examples, illustrating how many people share the same concern and desire to get it right from early in a child’s life. So why is this blog relevant to what is a mostly ‘adult services’ dominated discussion, for two reasons. All these children have parents and parents are most often adults, and second most (I wish it were all) these children will become adults.

Adult services have to stop focusing simply on support to post-18 year olds and realise that they have a role in promoting good well being and mental health for parents (well documented as a challenge for those with a child with complicated support needs). A child living with their birth family or in a family will thrive.

Adult Services have to realise that one way of tackling the ever greater demands on their budgets is to positively involve themselves in the work of children’s services; an adapted home for a child can make lives easier for a family, and most likely mean the child is healthier as they grow into adulthood because they have lived with their families.

Adult Services and Children’s Services need to stop thinking ‘we can’t spend money where we don’t spend it already’, (in simple terms that means continuing to fund support that fails). Together they need to think whole people, whole person and whole family, whole community.

There are many small scale and local pieces of work being taken forward that demonstrate people’s understanding of this, for example the support offered to people by The Mayday Trust.[vii]However there is a complete lack of acknowledgement at a national level. The future of social care has be one of ‘all ages / whole people’, and the government has to take the lead (although all the innovation around the country may suggest this is the worst idea).

One final example; a south west local authority and their health partners are in the process of setting up a new ‘alliance’ for people with complex needs, mainly centred around homelessness, substance misuse, mental health and ex-offenders. However they have also included within the new specification children and young people. Children are often involved in complicated situations with parents needing support and those leaving the care system are often over represented in homelessness, mental health and substance misuse statistics. New ways of thinking are there, we just need to champion them.

The future for social care needs to be one of stepping away from age as an identifier and simply focus on:

Inclusion – in community, school, work, old age and for those who for whatever reason find themselves isolated and segregated

Independent Living for families and people – choice, control, accessibility, housing and income

Nothing about us without us – young people consistently prove the sceptics wrong, they have brilliant thoughts and ideas based on their own often traumatic and challenging life experiences – listening to them will be the first step to getting it right from the start.

A final thought, if we want to start getting it right from the start no bad place to start is how to support children and young people experience the joy of the ordinary; a joyful experience every day will make for a happier child.

Nic Crosby works with many different services, organisations and people across the UK and Europe, www.gatherbuildwork.net

Nic is a founding member of Collective Action and Support, a collective of people who want to share and use their combined skills and life/work experience to start ‘getting it right from the start’. To find out more visit: www.collectiveactionandsupport.org

 

[i] https://www.tes.com/news/exclusions-autistic-pupils-60-cent

 

[ii] Ignorance is strength – what do we know about the progress of Transforming Care https://chrishatton.blogspot.com

 

[iii] Early identification system being used in Dorset

http://www.dorsetecho.co.uk/news/16312926.New_system_being_used_in_Dorset_to_find_families_in_need_of_support/

 

[iv] Bavarian Youth Council shares vision on successful Municipal Youth Policy for viable youth friendly communities

https://www.eurochild.org/fileadmin/public/04_News/Members/POS_Jugendgerechte_Kommunen_EN_LL_KF.pdf

 

[v] Early Intervention and family Support – Bosnia and Herzegovina

http://www.openingdoors.eu/portfolio/azra-bosnia-and-herzegovina/

 

[vi] What does research say about inclusive education?

https://www.thinkinclusive.us/research-inclusive-education/

 

[vii] The Mayday Trust

https://www.maydaytrust.org.uk/vision-and-mission

 

 

By Andrew Reece

CLDS promise logo

 

On World Social Work Day Jeremy Hunt unveiled his seven pillars of social care reform, promising to ‘turbocharge’ the integration agenda. But will this really solve the social care crisis? Or does this simply speak to what appears to be the Department of Health (and social care)’s view[i] of social care as a handmaiden to Health?

Without wanting to dwell too long on Hunt’s poor analogy (lest we forget, a turbocharger takes hot gas from the backend of the system and uses this to pressurise the front end: lots of fun to be had comparing the engine to a hospital with that one) it might be useful to clarify what we understand by integration.

In Camden’s integrated Learning Disability Service we are trying to develop our understanding what integration means. At an away day to consider this is I asked a trick question: ‘what is integration?’ The team of mixed health and social care professionals, who have been ‘integrated’ for 21 years now, came up with a variety of system focused responses: professionals working together, organisations merging, pooled budgets, shared IT, were among the common elements of their thoughtful and considered suggestions.

However, I then suggested to them that this not the right question: it’s looking through the wrong end of the telescope. I suggested to them that the right question is: ‘what is integration for?’ Unless we can agree an answer to that question, a rush to ‘turbocharge’ directionless change and reorganisation could create more problems than it solves.

IPPR’s 2013 Paper ‘Whole Person Care’ looks through the right end of the telescope. By starting with the premise that people aren’t interested in the shape organisations, their governance or the KPIs. People who use seek our support are only really interested in how they experience the care and support they need from the state. Thus IPPR suggest that

Co-ordinating care around individuals is far more important than integrating structures. The focus should be on ‘hiding the wiring’ so that people experience seamless care, whether it is from a single provider or multiple organisations.

The aim of this blog, like at our away-day, is to kick off a conversation about ‘what integration is for’. I like to keep things simple, after all it’s much easier to co-produce solutions if everyone understands what we are trying to achieve through our shared endeavour. So my answer is that integration should aim to achieve 3 things:

  1. Improved outcomes for people who need care and support and their families
  2. An improved experience of interacting with the system for people who need care and support and their families
  3. Improved use of resources across the whole system

Neither should integration just be about the NHS and Local authorities. In our local Camden context, we are working with our commissioners to include our key local support providers as partners in that integration journey: there’s little to be gained by having Local Authority and NHS integration, if the front line services who deliver the day to day ‘hands on’ support think that our interactions with them are ‘patronising, officious and condescending’ (yes, that is what they told us!). Terry Bamford[ii] suggested over a decade ago that quality improvement in front line services arises when we see providers as strategic partners rather base our interactions with them on ‘contract monitoring’. Recent work from the Kings Fund[iii] has started to create an evidence base that backs up what they call this ‘system leadership’ approach. We hope that this partnering approach will

  • allow us all to benefit from their insight and expertise as their staff spend more time with the people they support than we do
  • support us to share responsibility when things go wrong and work together to learn from this
  • share and celebrate success and learn from that too!

Conversely, ‘disintegration’ becomes any activity that inhibits these aims, or any activity carried out in isolation or with a narrow focus on ‘my KPIs’ rather than system wide improvement. My challenge to readers, whatever part of the system they sit in, is to find the right end of their own or their organisation’s telescope and work to coproduce a local agreement as to what integration is for, and use that to drive the ‘shared endeavour’ that could lead to whole person care across their the whole of their local system.

Answers on an Easy Read postcard please!

[i] See Caroline Dinenage MP, Minister of State for Social Care, introduction to the Chief Social Worker’s Annual Report 2017-18

[ii] Bamford, Terry (2001) Commissioning and Purchasing, Psychology Press, London

[iii] Enhanced health in care homes: learning from experiences so far

By David Watts & Brendan Clifford

In the City of Wolverhampton, we see ourselves as a piece in a jigsaw. We realise that we are one place amongst many. Like everyone else, though, we also think there’s lots of great things about our place, our community and geography.

But our place in the jigsaw has brought challenges, too. This blog is about one of these. In respect of our workforce, skills and job levels have changed over time with different types of roles available and skills required for them. The wider Council absolutely supports our approach to adult social care, where we have worked hard to reframe social care positively for the future and reduce the incorrect perception that it is merely a drain on resources, and not a career of choice.

This has particularly come alive in our collective work on skills and jobs where the Council is focussed on investment and regeneration as a key solution to addressing wider challenges. Where the City has led the way is in recognising that adult social care has such a positive input and should be a fundamental part of the investment and employment strategy. In 2016, we became the first Council in the country to work with our friends at Skills for Care to use their methodology for the economic contribution of adult social care to the City of Wolverhampton… £250 million is what they reckoned for us and providing jobs for around 6,500 people.

We took this learning to the Council’s top team and showed that about 80% of our local businesses employed fewer than 10 people. We showed how that linked to the changing models of care we have been working to bring about in what is sometimes called micro-commissioning or micro-providers. We showed how the economic contribution of our local care sector, when compared with other sectors, was much bigger. We also showed the links to other sectors such as health and children’s services which would increase the size of the economic contribution of care-related activity still further.

As a result, the council agreed to include the care sector amongst its priorities for regeneration. We established a “Careers into Care” partnership which energized our endeavours. We have built on our relationship with the independent care sector and employers chair our partnership which developed a local action plan. The plan includes approaches to career pathways and includes working with and supporting schools, that are now specialising in care and health. Our second strand is our work on developing apprenticeships in the care sector for younger people and those who are entering care work later in life. We have held several Job Fairs which have attracted around 1,000 attendees over time, linking attendees to interviews and to offers of employment. The real outcome has been that we have seen an overall reduction in our vacancy rate in adult social care services reported by Skills for Care.

We were delighted that others are following a similar path to ours and recognizing the contribution of social care to local economies. Not least, we were really pleased when we saw that the Government’s 2017 Industrial Strategy included the care sector, for the first time as far as we know, in such a strategy. It included the “ageing society” amongst its “Grand Challenges” as it is expected that by 2040, one-in-eight people will be aged over 75 (it’s one-in-12 currently). The national Industrial Strategy encourages development of Local Industrial Strategies, pretty much as we seem to have done in the City of Wolverhampton already, recognising the opportunities that present themselves in care and other sectors because of social and other changes.

Hopefully, up and down the country, across every other piece of the jigsaw, everyone involved in social care will be able to better demonstrate the impact of social care for employment, as a career of choice and as a positive contributor to the local place. The voices of people who want lives not services will be key to continuing to shape the sector and workforce of the future. Their voices are the most important in setting the scene for how lives can be lived well and will be key in leading our careers in to care partnership in attracting the best and brightest with the right values in to the sector. We know we still have a long way to go in the City of Wolverhampton but hopefully our reflections and actions, that have had a clear impact locally, will inspire others to follow similar paths for their own areas.

Look at where social care sits in our investment strategy in Wolverhampton.

http://www.investwolverhampton.com/about-wolverhampton/key-sectors/health-social-care/

Also check out the recently published Skills for Care report on the Economic Value of the Social Care Sector in England

https://www.skillsforcare.org.uk/Documents/About/sfcd/the-economic-value-of-the-adult-social-care-sector-UK.pdf

If you want to discuss with us in greater detail how we have brought about these changes and have reframed the place of social care as a positive economic contributor, please do get in touch.

David Watts – Director of Adult Services

Brendan Clifford – Service Director