In our latest update from Leeds Adult Social Care Services leadership team, Shona McFarlane, Chief Officer for Access and Care Delivery, shares her thoughts on what it will take to provide outstanding social care.
Leeds has aspirations to be the best city in which to grow old. Add to this the focus on having a strong economy and a being a compassionate city and we have a great foundation for providing really effective social care services.
We have an amazing range of community services, both provided and commissioned and an outstanding third sector. It is also clear that people in Leeds have a huge commitment to volunteering and contributing to their local community but one area we need to develop a better focus on is personalised and person centred services.
We know that adult social care services have been somewhat protected within the financial challenges faced by councils over the last few years. The increase in the number of older and disabled people, combined with continuing tight budgets, means we need to support people to stay independent for longer and use resources available in their own families and communities rather than relying on directly provided care at the earliest stage in their journey. This fits with what people tell us; that they want to live at home for as long as possible and they want to be able to do things with friends and family where they live.
The Better Lives Strategy so far has focused on the way in which services are delivered, reducing in-house residential and some day care services, developing new models of care such as Aspire Community Benefit Society – a way of supporting people with learning disabilities, and building on the neighbourhood networks which are a real jewel in our crown.
We are starting to see a clear shift in our social work to build on this foundation. There are some real strengths around risk management, responding to crisis and the way we approach the legal side of our work. But that’s not all social workers need to do – we have an ambition to deliver truly outstanding social work and that means working with people in a very different way.
Social workers need to be at the forefront of making Leeds a compassionate city; helping people to find and make the best use of the resources and strengths available within their communities, advocating for people’s human rights and aspirations, offering direct payments enabling them to have increasing choice and control over their care. It is also about working with people to help them to make a contribution themselves, perhaps through volunteering, sharing their skills and experience with others, not simply for them to be seen as just people in need of care and support.
The challenge however is to create the ambition and transform both what we as social workers do and how we do it. Starting soon, social workers will be involved in shaping the voice and values of social work in Leeds. This will focus on building trusting, meaningful relationships and having different conversations that start with the people we work with and keep them at the heart of everything we do.
Nationally the leadership of the profession may be at a crossroads with the closing of the College of Social Work and the recent announcement of a new regulatory body for the profession, but locally we can develop a clear vision and plan to deliver truly outstanding social work.