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.
“Could we just turn this all on its head?”
This was the question Alec Porter put to his colleagues in Bradford’s Access team which started a redesign of their adult social care front door. Staff have been given more freedom and time, in order to ensure that people’s conversations with the council focus on boosting their independence – rather than on their eligibility for council services. The results are encouraging: since October 2018, the council has seen a 40% increase in signposting from their front door. Alec’s advice is to give staff the tools and support to build their skills and let them develop their own style. “The danger of just giving staff scripts is that you take away their personality,” he says.
IMPOWER recently held its fourth Shared Learning Event for adult social care professionals. It brought together 32 people from 18 different local authorities to share their experiences on managing demand at the adult social care front door. Some of the highlights are summarised below:
- Nikki Davey and Nicola Pope from Bristol City Council described how they are developing new software to help residents find out more about the support they can access locally; and how they have reduced the number of cases that end up being passed back and forth between teams through staff coaching.
- Richard Parry from Kirklees Council shared how they have reviewed their front door in the context of the whole adult social care system. A key impact has been ensuring people can have early conversations about finances and eligibility, so they can find the most appropriate support more quickly.
- Suffolk County Council is making better use of management information, and developing chatbots in order to help people resolve their queries more quickly, at any time of day. Phil Quickenden reminded us that “digital is not that thing over there, it’s in everything we do. We need to focus on what works; not what’s cool.”
- Mark Branton, Lucy Mellor and Eva Fielding of Gloucestershire County Council discussed the tension between intervening early to support people’s independence and creating additional demand. They shared their ‘Your Circle’ campaign, which is helping residents to navigate their way around health and care in their local area.
- Shropshire Council is coordinating multiple social care front doors across the Council and aligning with health colleagues. Kate Garner highlighted the importance of making technology relevant: “Talking about our ambition for digital is great, but it can’t stay up in the ether – it has to land with practitioners and residents”.
I left the event buzzing with ideas and feeling optimistic about the sector’s initiative. The event demonstrated that despite restricted funding, local authorities continue to seize the opportunity to reframe services away from meeting need, and towards achieving better outcomes and improving lives.
Closing the day, IMPOWER Director Ralph Cook shared how our EDGEWORK approach is helping councils to look beyond what they can control to tackle those very issues. Public service systems are complex and we need to think differently about how to boost people’s independence and manage demand across all our partners. Everything I heard at the event suggested that local authorities have a shared ambition to do just that.
If you’d like to be part of our next Shared Learning Event, please do get in touch.