This article originally appeared in The MJ. Using a strengths-based approach helps people to live more independent lives and enables councils to achieve better outcomes for less.
As Boris Johnson gets ready to move into 10 Downing Street, appoint his Health & Social Care Secretary, and make his first speech as Prime Minister, it’s absolutely vital that the social care crisis is among his political priorities.
I’m therefore delighted that we are launching our new report today setting out the five shifts that leaders in adult social care need to make to transform the system. The report – 5 Fast-Forwards for Social Care – reframes the challenge that Directors of Adult Social Services and other leaders within the complex social care system face. It also includes a 5 minute online survey for those working in social care to assess the progress of their own local system and compare this with the national picture.
The adult social care crisis is not just about insufficient funding and a lack of integration with the health system. These are well-trodden paths, and while greater funding is needed, it is not the Holy Grail. Instead, in the report we argue that there are five fundamental issues which heavily impact the system and need to be managed more effectively to avoid system failure.
The first essential step is to understand that adult social care is a complex system Systems or problems can either be complicated or complex. In a complex system, inputs do not directly lead to predictable, repeatable outputs and outcomes., as opposed to a complicated system. These are different things that require different ways of thinking that runs counter to traditional approaches. They also require solutions that have been co-produced across organisational boundaries. At IMPOWER, we call this EDGEWORK – our unique way of understanding and navigating complex systems, helping leaders in local government deliver better outcomes that cost less.
The five fundamental issues that must be confronted are:
- There is no agreed approach for achieving ‘good’ adult social care despite broad consensus over the key elements.
- Saving money has in some cases become the primary focus rather than helping citizens live a better life.
- The quality of frontline practice is inconsistent with change management activity focusing too much on structures and processes rather than behaviours.
- Differences between organisations and services can lead to an adversarial culture which keeps service leaders from looking beyond their limited span of control.
- Service leaders often lack the data they need to make effective decisions.
To overcome these challenges, the report proposes five shifts that will fast-forward social care to a sustainable future.
The accompanying online survey allows leaders in adult social care to evaluate their current level of performance. An initial group has already completed the survey to provide an early benchmark; the average overall score is relatively modest at this point, reinforcing the scale of opportunity that exists to change the system radically and for the better.
We are delighted to offer service directors and other system leaders who complete the survey a meeting or telephone call so that we can share a comparative analysis of your answers, along with further insight into your area’s progress.