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Kersten England

Guest blogpost: Kersten England, Chief Executive, City of Bradford MDC

The shift from doing things to and for people to equipping them with the greatest possible choice and control over their own lives is a journey we’ve been on for some time, particularly in adult social care. However this requires changes in the way we work that presents challenges in an organisation of our size where staff are coping with the daily pressures of serving a big, diverse district with high levels of demand. It’s fair to say that transformation was not moving at the pace or in the ways that we needed.

IMPOWER worked with us to implement a strengths-based approach with individual clients and staff, prepare a programme of change, deliver management information to track change and coach the senior team. They have helped make the service better connected, from senior leadership to middle management and frontline staff.

In the past there was a good chance of someone receiving a care package at the front door and one that might not necessarily have maximised their independence, choice and control. However, having moved to a strengths-based approach we are better able to establish what people need and signpost them to the appropriate support.

Working with external organisations to achieve change is not always straightforward; projects often falter at implementation. IMPOWER’s approach however was not simply to arrive, assess and leave. They worked to understand what it would take to implement change and then to provide the support needed to effect it. They also focused on the behaviours we needed to achieve our desired outcomes, rather than just undertaking a technocratic exercise of inputs and outputs.

I lead complex services and systems at organisational and District level. Delivering change in this environment isn’t possible without a deep understanding of how complex systems work. IMPOWER have that understanding and their EDGEWORK approach helped us identify the definitive shifts required in order to implement sustainable change.

Covid has been a huge challenge as for all councils. Resources are stretched after years of austerity that have forced us to find over £300m savings. The pandemic has impacted disproportionately on our communities, widening inequality, and we face complex challenges in supporting people and controlling infection in the UK’s youngest city (which is also one of its most diverse).

I reflect on our response with pride. Bradford district has shown phenomenal resilience. Council staff and services moved rapidly, equipping thousands of people to work from home and innovating to maintain essential services, support the care sector and go the extra mile for our communities and businesses. A localities approach to prevention and early help was implemented virtually overnight and we must now systemise this, building on Bradford’s pioneering approaches to early help exemplified by the Born in Bradford research programme.

Working with IMPOWER, we shifted our adult social care service from an operation which, while wired to do the right things for people, had inadvertently created higher levels of dependency than are good, towards one costing less and producing better outcomes. Their willingness to understand and work with the grain of the organisation while remaining a critical friend made a big difference to our success.

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