Although we are hurtling towards the end of January already, a couple of my appointments over the last week or so, set me off thinking about how we might tackle some of the challenges we face in this new year of 2014.
I don’t intend to labour the point about the savings the council has to make once again other than to reiterate the sobering statistic that suggests local government will have faced a cut of over 40% in the period 2010-16. Suffice to say this means we have to do things differently.
It may seem a bit strange to say this given the scale of the task we face but as a “cup half full rather than half empty” kind of person, I think we can still hold our heads up high and be proud of the public service values that we all share. We have an opportunity, both as elected members and officers of the council, working with our partners and those who use our services to shape how we want the health and social care landscape in Leeds to look for the future.
Sometimes organisations, especially when they are facing change and uncertainty look inwards and discourage creativity and the thinking of new ideas. I think the leadership from both the Leader of the Council, Cllr Wakefield and Tom Riordan as Chief Executive via the Commission for Local Government which they both set up, shows we are determined, despite our problems, to not let that happen here. Their commission developed the notion of “civic enterprise” – that the council has to become more “enterprising” and the private and third sectors to be more “civic”. Most importantly their work gives us the permission – officers and elected members – to be more creative, to have and encourage ideas, to embrace experimentation and new ways of doing things.
And Adult Social has good form in this area. Whether it be the work with Neighbourhood Networks to develop much closer links between local communities and older people. Whether it be the redesign of mental health day services which took place working with service users. Or whether it is proposals we will be taking to the Council’s Executive Board soon around the development of a social enterprise for some of our learning disability services.
I attended the re-launch recently of the Ideas That Change Lives fund where Adult Social Care, working with Leeds Community Foundation, will fund individuals and organisations that have an idea that could be turned into a social enterprise that will help support people to stay living independently and safely in their communities.
Like Enabled Works which I visited, a social enterprise in Morley owned and run as a worker co-operative by 12 disabled people formerly employed by Remploy. They provide training and support to disabled people to help them get job ready. They also do work for companies such as packaging, and self-assembly. Inspiringly, one year on from setting up, the team there are determined to put the problems of the past firmly into the past.
Thinking about new ideas was very much on the agenda at a workshop organised by the Older Peoples Food Group this week, run by Community Meals and Public Health. Although the theme was food and hydration for older people, the roundtable discussions with representatives from different organisations came up with many new ideas for tackling social isolation amongst older people.
So if we are giving ourselves permissions to be creative and if thinking outside the box is the order of the day, a few thoughts around how we might do that.
We should, in my view, hold on to the public service ethos that drives most of us. That places great importance on the ideas of mutuality, trust, and crucially improving quality. I’m a great supporter of the maxim advocated by Andrea Sutcliffe, the Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission, (@Crouchendtiger7) who was recently in Leeds. When we are looking at services and how we can adapt and improve them, does it pass the “is it good enough for my mum” test. If it’s not good enough for my mum, brother, niece or your mother, brother or niece, is it good enough for anyone else’s?
I follow Gill Phillips on twitter (@WhoseShoes) creator of health and social care tool “Whose Shoes” aimed at helping us design services with those who use them. “Walk a mile in my shoes” as she puts it and then think what a service should look like.
So in other words let’s make sure the new ideas and opportunities we explore this year are congruent with the values we hold dear.
Here’s to a year of thinking creatively!
Cllr. Adam Ogilvie ( @AdamPOgilvie)