Despite consistently delivering a ‘good’ service as rated by Ofsted, a rising demand for foster homes, static supply of in-house carers and an increasing reliance on more expensive agency placements meant fostering was fast becoming the single biggest pressure on Buckinghamshire County Council’s (BCC) budget. A step change in performance was needed to keep costs manageable.
What we did
In order to generate savings of £1m plus p.a. – equivalent to 13% of current expenditure – BCC needed to find new and better ways of recruiting and retaining carers. iMPOWER’s pioneering demand-led approach provided a new way for BCC to look at business strategy and service re-design.
Instead of starting with business process, we helped BCC start with the customer – the carer. Using innovative behavioural tools and techniques, we helped BCC understand the values and motivations of carers. We then combined this insight with traditional business analysis and market research, helping BCC to quickly identify and prioritise improvement opportunities and investment.
Our work with BCC identified a range of immediate savings opportunity extending beyond 13% of spend, while providing BCC with an opportunity to listen to some of its most valued customers. It also created a lasting framework with which to understand and influence their behaviours.
This approach inherently puts people at the centre because it doesn’t start with process or ICT. It engages carers and staff alike, inspires creative discussion and builds a feeling of co-ownership. Our project team was formed of both iMPOWER and BCC colleagues and they used the project methodology to speak extensively with virtually all operational team members and carers. They shared findings, identified issues and planned actions together, promoting buy-in from those delivering and receiving the service.
Innovation and insight
At the heart of this project was customer insight. Using our sector-leading tools and techniques, BCC gathered high value local intelligence from customers and translated it into competitive advantage in the market.
The findings of this work were striking and prompted a major shift in recruitment and retention strategy. But they also provided a sustainable way to deliver and refresh that strategy and action plan.
As a result of this project, BCC is already seeing new and original ways to address other long-standing issues.
iMPOWER is a values led consultancy dedicated to the reform of the public sector.