Social workers play a vital role in achieving better outcomes for individuals and on World Social Work Day we have an extra reason to celebrate social work. I have been working with social workers in one local authority and have taken away some key lessons about relationships in social work.
I was delighted to see the launch of Connect Well Hull last week, a key part of Hull City Council’s new operating model for adult social care. I am part of the IMPOWER team working with Hull Council to co-design and implement the new model. This is part of the Council’s vision of ‘A life not a service’. The new model has three steps and while Connect Well Hull is instrumental to the first step, it has a role to play in each one:
1. Helping people to help themselves
2. Helping people when they need it
3. Helping people to live their lives
The first step – Helping people to help themselves – is about helping people live independently of adult social care services, seeing the individual as part of their social and community network, and focusing on early intervention and self-care.
Hull has a network of great community groups and activities which can help people to make positive changes that improve their own health and wellbeing, yet not everyone was aware of this amazing asset. Our case reviews indicated that 38% of all people referred to adult social care had not been connected to local community groups and activities that they would have benefitted from. We therefore started exploring how to help people connect to the opportunities in the city that can help improve their physical and mental well-being.
The Adult Social Care Transformation Board – part of the governance of the project – had representatives from the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and it soon became clear that what the Council was trying to achieve was similar to the ‘social prescribing scheme’ that the CCG had been piloting and wanted to extend across the city. ‘Social prescribing schemes’ enable primary care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services, recognising that people’s health is determined by a range of social, economic and environmental factors. This was a great opportunity to commission a new service jointly.
To turn the plans for the ‘social prescribing scheme’ into a scheme that would also achieve the objectives of adult social care, three alterations were made:
· Extending the acceptance of referrals beyond just GPs and Social Workers to include anyone who works with people who would benefit, as well as self-referrals – this was key for the service to be able to ‘help people help themselves’ and to prevent unnecessary demand to GPs and Social Workers from people who would benefit from the scheme.
· Extending the role of the scheme to include a targeted marketing approach using community information to target those most at risk of developing issues of health and wellbeing. An example of this is ensuring there are links with local undertakers as a recent bereavement can be a key driver for health and emotional well-being. Making sure people are supported prior to crisis is a proactive way of reducing the likelihood of poor physical and emotional health.
· Enabling appointments to take place in community settings in addition to GP surgeries. We identified that approximately 30% of people do not visit their GP every year and we wanted to ensure that they also benefit from early intervention activities to maintain their health and well-being.
Hull residents now have a great new service which can help them feel more connected to the community, try something new, get active, and receive advice on issues such as money, benefits or housing. It will improve the wellbeing of people in Hull, preventing and delaying health and care needs from deteriorating, which ultimately will help reduce demand into an overloaded health and social care system.