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.
IMPOWER’s contribution to a fairer and more compassionate society is to increase the quality of citizens’ lives by helping our clients in local government and health make meaningful and measurable improvements to public services. An important question we ask ourselves continuously is whether we are enabling them to deliver better public services and better outcomes while also reaching their financial targets. Making a real impact on individuals’ lives, for our clients, and within the wider public services sector is a key measure of success for our EDGEWORK approach.
- Individual impact – how has IMPOWER changed and improved lives?
We often work with Directorates of Adult Social Services to help individuals live more independently. One recent example is Jane (not her real name), aged 54, and living in Bristol. Jane was discharged from hospital with a heart condition. Once at home, Jane was supported by two carers who visited four times a day. Through the Better Lives programme that IMPOWER designed and delivered with Bristol City Council, Jane’s social worker reassessed her case and identified different equipment that would help Jane with some aspects of her daily life. With the installation of that equipment and with family and the local community, Jane now only needs one daily care visit. The open discussion that the Better Lives programme prompted enabled Jane to have more choice and more control over her support. Jane is happier, feels more independent, and the new care package is much less intrusive for her and her family.
- Project impact – how has IMPOWER helped our local authority and health organisation partners to deliver better services?
We measure the impact of our projects in a number of ways, including changes in demand for services as well as budget savings. As a result of the Brighter Futures programme in Ealing we supported, the number of children in care (‘looked after children’, LAC) has fallen from 410 to 344 over six years – a reduction of 22%. That is against the backdrop of a national rise across England. Indeed, if the number of LAC in Ealing had grown at the same rate as the England average, the council would by now have 444 children in its care. In other words, 100 more children now have a permanent home, rather than being in care. It costs around £50,000 a year to keep one child in care, meaning that Ealing would also have been spending an additional £5 million a year at this point. And of course, we also know that that stability increases the life chances for each child, and they are more likely to reach their potential.
- Sector impact – how has IMPOWER influenced and led the public services sector?
In each of our projects across the country, we constantly uncover insights that inform and improve that particular project as well as informing and improving our future work. We try to share our knowledge and expertise as we believe that collaboration and a discovery mindset will always lead to better results. We recently shared some findings from our Valuing Care programme with the Department for Education. Valuing Care calls on Departments of Children’s Services to improve the links between the needs of each child in care, the outcomes that those children should see, and the resources invested in each child. This work – one of the modules of the IMPOWER INDEX – has been highlighted in ‘Fostering Better Outcomes’, the Government’s response to the Fostering Stocktake.
Knowing that we are improving lives, helping councils meet budget targets and influencing the national agenda is what gets us out of bed in the mornings at IMPOWER. We will keep pushing to make an impact in the work that we do.