Taking stock and looking forward

Our latest post is from Cath Roff, Director of Leeds Adult Social Services. Cath reflects on her time since taking up her new role and on plans for adult social care in Leeds.

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I’ve now been in post for eight months. In this time, I’ve met front line staff, service users, carers, Members, health partners, people in the voluntary sector and providers. I’ve made time to observe, done a lot of listening and then reflected on what I have seen and heard.

My first impression is that I have been both humbled and inspired by the number of skilled and committed staff who, often working in difficult situations, continue to make a big difference to the lives of the people they provide care and support for. Leeds is such a friendly, creative city across the health and care partnership with huge potential for collaborative opportunities. I can see that up front prevention and investment in particular in older people’s services is genuinely delaying entry into statutory services and helping people maintain their independence.

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The next four years sees public sector services, including adult social care, continuing to be squeezed at the same time as the welfare reforms are impacting on the people we support. I see and hear social work teams struggling to keep up with the demand for their services and frustrated by some of the “red tape” in the system. I have looked very carefully at how resources are deployed across different customer groups which has raised some questions about equity which need to be addressed.

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Taking stock, four years on from the start of the Better Lives Strategy, and with probably 4-5 more years of austerity to come, we have held staff conversations to explore what the next steps in the strategy should be and to get their thoughts on how they feel we can bring their strengths, and those of the people and communities we work with, into how we approach social care provision in the 21st Century.

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There are three key components I want to start with. They are:

Understanding what really is a “better life” for the people we work with?

What are the components and should aspiration feature more prominently? I have also asked Leeds Involving People to work with a group of citizens for them to tell us what they think is a “better life” We will be exploring this more widely shortly but feel free to respond with your thoughts below.

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It’s time to liberate the assessment and support planning function

Our processes are unwieldy and paperwork heavy and we should make it easier for assessors to do their job and should reduce process where it isn’t needed. We believe that everyone has strengths and the starting point of our conversation with our citizens will be from this point of view: thinking about their personal strengths, the strengths of their family, friends and communities. Some people call this an asset-based approach but staff have said very clearly they would prefer to refer this as a strengths-based approach.

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It’s really about bottom up problem solving. It will also involve improving knowledge and awareness of the richness of the community resources we have in the city and working much closer in partnership with local people. The Leeds Directory is a fantastic resource to help with this.

Promoting Independence in everything we do.

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This all means a move to strength- based approach to social care. It’s about recognising potential, aspirations, and responsibility. It needs to be more about what people can do rather than what they can’t and in the local context of their relationships and communities. It needs to be more prevention focussed, more personalised to develop plans for where people are going in their lives and include more peer support and self-management.

“Recovery” is a concept well recognised in mental health services but we also recognise that many people we support will not “recover” from their disability or frailty but none the less aspire to be as independent as possible. We already have some great services that help people but I can also see some gaps – I really want to ensure we offer services that work with people in a holistic way with a parity of esteem between physical ill health and mental health.

Integrated Neighbourhood Teams and Neighbourhood Networks are a great foundation stone for how we will work in the future – rooted in, and part of, communities. In the New Year I will be exploring how we can build stronger links in neighbourhoods with people who have direct experience of care and support services including carers. They are genuinely experts by experience and are generous in their advice and support to other people. How can we use that knowledge to help us to better practice person-centred social care?

Our Better Lives strategy supports the city ambition to be the best city. We can’t really do our best if we aren’t aware of what is going on, what is changing, the good things we can share or how we might do things differently. Similarly, people won’t have a wider choice of services or Better Lives if they don’t know what choices are available.

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One of our biggest challenges is therefore to ensure we improve our communication and information provision. I include myself and my senior colleagues in this and so I intend to provide more regular updates. I’m also a big believer that communication should be two way and we need to provide opportunities for people to tell us when and how we might do things better so please feel free to let me know.

On behalf of the staff in adult social care services, I’d like to send our season’s greetings and best wishes for a happy and healthy 2016.

About betterlivesleeds

Health, social and age-related care services working together to make Leeds the best city for health and wellbeing
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