Profile – Penny Furness-Smith

Profile of Penny Furness-Smith, director of adult services at Harrow Council

As part of our mini-campaiggn on the adult green paper, we compare and contrast the roles of the adult services director and the children’s services director at Harrow Council, which was one of the first councils to split its services into two.

If Penny Furness-Smith was given a brief when she became director of community care at Harrow Council, it was to forge closer ties

Penny Furness-Smith  
Penny Furness-Smith
with health, keep strong relationships with children’s services and to engage the local community, writes Craig Kenny.

She’s only been in the job for three months, but if she has an idea of where they may be heading with community engagement, then it’s about turning service users into providers – by adapting the principles of workers’ co-operatives.

Furness-Smith has the right experience for integrating adult social care with health services – her last job was in a joint local authority/primary care trust position in Southend, managing NHS community health services, council community care services and joint commissioning.

Overseeing a budget of £41.3 million at Harrow, she has no additional responsibilities outside of adult social services, although some authorities have used that flexibility to combine with other council briefs.

Pay is on a par with children’s services director Paul Clark, around £100,000 a year [the scale is £91-106,000]. ‘If there wasn’t parity they would not have got me,’ she says.

Her statutory duties are towards vulnerable adults and she chairs the local protection of vulnerable adults committee. ‘Adults fall to me, children fall to Paul, and we already have established protocols in that area,’ she says.

‘But for the public, the council will be a first contact service. Any separation between adults and children will be done in the back room rather than the front room.’

Issues around protection of vulnerable adults are out to consultation nationally, but she will also be following the model developed in children’s services. ‘It’s been successful in Harrow, and if we use the same model as them that helps with service integration.’

There’s already some integration with health: there’s a jointly funded community equipment service, and a joint commissioning unit to take this agenda further, but where they go next is still up for debate, she says.

Furness-Smith chairs partnership boards for all the borough’s users groups – mental health services, older people, learning difficulties, physical disabilities and sensory impairment.

It is through these that she expects to develop the ‘preventive’ services envisaged in the adult care green paper and the public health white paper, to reduce demand for more costly, intensive services.

In part this is about improving access to universal services, she says, but she also sees a role for the local authority in commissioning services that will target this work at the relevant sections of the community.

Asked what these services might be, her example comes from health. ‘Smoking cessation is universally a good thing, but there are specific groups that need additional support like teenage mums.’

Just what kind of ‘preventive’ social care services they might need will be deduced from the outcome of the department’s Strategic Needs Assessment, she says. These community profiles and long-term commissioning plans are one of the adult social care directors’ new responsibilities set out in the green paper.

She has a clearer idea about who will deliver many of these preventive services, however. ‘If you think about preventative services, and who are best placed to deliver them, it is the people who have experienced those services for themselves.

‘If you look at the National Service Framework for mental health we are encouraged to see users develop into providers, becoming employed to deliver a service. It’s along similar principles to workers co-operatives.

‘That’s true for learning difficulties, mental health, physical and sensory deprivation and more able older people.

‘Carers and users in the voluntary sector are the key to progressing the preventive agenda.’

Key facts

Name:– Penny Furness-Smith

Job Title:- Director of community care, Harrow Council

Role:- Integrating community health and social care services, working closely with children’s services and engaging the community in partnerships.

Pay:- Around £100,000 p.a.

Time in job:- Three months

Statutory responsibilities:- Protection of vulnerable adults

Budget:- £41.3 million

Partnership bodies:- Chairs partnership boards for all the borough’s users groups – mental health services, older people, learning disabilities and physical and sensory disabilities. Chairs other multi-disciplinary committees for some National Service Frameworks.

Background:- Adult and children’s social services, joint NHS/social services director of integrated services, Southend.



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