Minimising the need for crisis care and support helps people live more independently and reduces the burden on services Ewan King is from the Social Care Institute for Excellence, and Pete Jackson is from the West Midlands region Monday 13 April 2015
Rahm Emmanuel, mayor of Chicago and former adviser to President Obama, famously said during the financial crash: “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.” Now, while there is a lively debate about whether social care faces a serious crisis or not, there is no doubt that the sector faces unprecedented challenges. But out of these challenges, people across the sector are thinking very differently about the future of social care. They are not, as we’re sure Emmanuel would acknowledge, letting a crisis go to waste.
In the face of huge pressures, much of the most transformative practice is focused on preventing and minimising the need for crisis care and support. The Care Act talks about delivering wellbeing, not through crisis management but by “preventing and supporting care and support needs, enabling people to live as independently as possible for as long as possible”. Preventative approaches make those words reality.
In the West Midlands, several local authorities are seeking to radically change the role of social care; from one being focused on helping the most vulnerable when they have already reached crisis point, to another where more people are supported to live more independently for longer.
And it’s not just in the West Midlands. Pioneers of prevention, all over the country, are doing this by adopting a community asset-based approach. This sees people as having skills, resources and networks that they can draw on to stay well and to avoid using intensive social care support for much longer, if at all.
Birmingham University’s Robin Miller tells us that local authorities across the West Midlands have embraced the spirit of the Care Act regarding holistic and person-centred preventative support. At a time of continuing austerity this demonstrates their resilience and vision. New Birmingham University research studies six local authorities in the area; it looks at how they have developed the capacity, within their communities, to prevent rising demand for care and support. It also looks at how some of the early benefits are being realised. For instance, Stoke-on-Trent city council have developed a Community Plus programme, to try and get ahead of the curve in preventing people getting into the system before it’s absolutely necessary. The early signs are that the approach is tapping into the assets that exist in the city, along with making the council’s work more efficient.
The Community Plus programme is exactly the sort of service example the Social Care Institute for Excellence (Scie) is keen to feature in the prevention library, which launched in January. The library, commissioned by the Department of Health, is a resource aimed at commissioners of prevention services in adult social care. It contains links to recent research publications and examples of preventative care and support services. The library provides resources that can help encourage services to develop and it’s building up the evidence base for prevention.
So how are local authorities doing all this? In the West Midlands they are trying to understand the complex range of “assets” in their local communities. These could include having a network of dementia friends, or establishing befriending groups and a pop-around service like the one in Sandwell; or what about community pubs offering library services?
The area is also developing care teams, members of which are already part of local communities. So, in Shropshire they are creating locality teams that signpost people to local non-social care resources, as part of a “let’s talk local” initiative.
West Midlands services are trying to make it as simple as possible to access local assets and resources. To an untrained eye, the local support system can seem bewildering; a myriad of different services, benefits, offices and websites. But in Walsall, for example, people are referred to a single point of contact, which helps to coordinate a package of services.
The West Midlands “Inside out and upside down” report and Scie’s prevention library will interest councils and, we hope, encourage more use of community-based approaches.
Social care can and should be turned “inside out” to encourage prevention. It’s then more likely to survive the challenges that engulf it. We have a sneaking feeling that even Emmanuel would be impressed.
Assets in the community can play a vital role in prevention.
Is there anything on this page that interests you? Let's have a conversation...