Future social work

The Think Local, Act Personal partnership has published a paper which I helped to author: Developing a Wellbeing and Strengths-based Approach to Social Work . Here is my foreword to the paper which looks at how social work could change to deliver the Care Act’s vision for wellbeing, drawing on Asset Based Community Development thinking and similar ideas:

Talk to social workers of a certain vintage about community development and many will begin to recall fondly the days of ‘community social work’, when social workers were expected to think whole-community in their approach to supporting people and perhaps even had the time and freedom to do so. Since that period, pressures upon social workers have increased with rising demand and falling budgets. The professionalisation of social work took the sector away from community social work, which was sometimes seen as hazily defined and weak on evidence of outcomes. It would be foolish to believe there was a ‘golden age’ and this paper is not a call to return to the past. Despite increasing pressures, social care can claim to have reformed itself more radically than any other public service sector. The concept of ‘personalisation’ is still contested and imperfectly implemented, but it is unarguable that thousands of disabled and older people have a level of choice and control which was unheard of until recently. Half a million people have personal budgets and a fifth of those have taken their personal budget as a cash Direct Payment, enabling them to create and manage an entirely new workforce of Personal Assistants. There are hundreds of innovative small and microscale enterprises, helping people to live well through interventions which look nothing like traditional services. Community-based interventions like Shared Lives are growing rapidly despite the pressures of austerity. So there is much innovation in services and support, alongside much-raised standards of skill and accountability amongst social workers, but we are also starting to understand the limitations of services acting on their own and the huge potential for support which fits around and enables people’s informal support relationships with their families and communities. That change does not make social work any less important, but it will require a new (or rediscovered) set of social work skills and attitudes: a social care workforce with the humility to use its power and access to resources not to take charge, but to enable people and families to take charge. It will need to be a workforce confident in its expertise but also more confident in the expertise and potential of individuals, families and communities. Models like Local Area Coordination and community navigators create the space in which professionals can get to know individuals and families well enough to understand what their goals and capabilities are, as well as their needs. Making those deeper relationships the norm will be a huge challenge in a financially stressed social care system, but meeting that challenge is the only way to a sustainable system, good lives for people with long term conditions and a workforce which is the best it can be.

Full paper here: bit.ly/1TTo3P3

Finding out more about micro-enterprise workers

A guest blog from Simon Taylor (simon@sharedlivesplus.org.uk), who supports our micro-enterprise members:

A reduction in the local authority workforce has not seen all these people disappear from the care and support workforce. Some join established agencies or providers but many have looked at their skills, considered their frustrations with former work and seen new opportunities to start their own micro-enterprise services.

Skills for Care’s report from last year’s “State of the Adult Social Care Sector and Workforce in England”, highlights some shifts in the workforce. The report shows the reduction of the local authority workforce (-9.3%) with a converse increase in Direct Payment employers (+15.8%) and the independent sector (+3.1%).

The report didn’t include statistics on micro-enterprise providers, but we know that some of the growth in micro-enterprises is through former local authority workers starting their own enterprises. Other enterprises are started by people entering social care for the first time, including some disabled and older people themselves starting their own micro-enterprises. These micro-entrepreneurs cover many areas, from residential support, services delivered in the home, help to access the community and many others which defy characterisation. Over 150 enterprises are now Shared Lives Plus members, benefitting from support, advice, insurance and a voice, whilst our sister organisation, Community Catalysts, supports areas to become micro-friendly and helps enterprises in the start-up phase.  

We are working closely with our very supportive colleagues at Skills for Care to look at how to include self-employed providers in national workforce information gathering. Getting more information about the people working in micro-enterprises will help us to ensure that their work is considered by policy makers and workforce planners.

Hence this very short survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SfC_SelfEmployment2013

If you know of any self-employed providers, please ask them to take part and ensure their voice is heard too. If you want to talk to us more about our micro enterprise services or our work informing policy do get in touch.