Striving for excellence?

The Excellence Network is Community Care’s new honours programme with a simple but significant objective – to recognise excellence and share it with the whole of social care. A panel of leading figures in the sector will assess the new ways of working displayed by the entries and the best teams will receive a Certificate of Achievement from the care services minister at a high-profile event.

So, how do you join The Excellence Network? You just have to nominate your team by filling in our easy-to-complete application form. We want entries from teams across the whole of social care’s client groups informing us of their excellence in one (or more) of the following categories: partnership working, early intervention, user involvement, self-directed care and training and development.

Ten minutes of your time could lead to your team being recognised nationally for their work and receive a kite mark of excellence which could show the way for others and be a very powerful tool locally in developing your services.

Your examples of best practice will make The Excellence Network the fulcrum for sharing learning points on progressive working. And Community Care will spread the word in print among your peers, online and at our live events – providing a huge platform for your excellence.

Alongside this celebration of teamwork, The Excellence Network will also recognise Community Care Champions. They’ll be individuals from within your teams who have gone beyond the call of duty.

Remember that you can enter your team for more than one category if you wish – but it must be an original application tailored to the criteria. And you must get your entry to us by 6 February 2008.

The Community Care team looks forward to meeting you in May 2008 at the honours ceremony!

Support from the minister

Ivan Lewis, Care Services Minister, Department of Health

I am delighted to support the launch of The Excellence Network.

The social care sector is changing. There is an increasing number of people using direct payments and individual budgets to fund their care, this is changing the way services are delivered, as people exercise more choice and control.

To deliver excellence in social care, the workforce needs to be innovative – reflecting the way new services are delivered. The workforce needs to develop new roles and provide care in different ways, moving freely across organisations, across social care and local government, health care boundaries, the independent and third sector.

Individuals and teams have a huge part to play. The Excellence Network will provide a way of rewarding staff for their creative ways of working and build on real-life innovation at work to develop benchmarks for best practice, driving forward a social care service with excellence at its centre.

The following organisations are sponsors of the Excellence Network:

Richard Greenwell, managing director, Hillcrest Care

On new ways of working: In the last few years, the looked-after children sector has begun receiving the attention it deserves through the establishment of the National Centre for Excellence in Residential Child Care. Furthermore, the drive towards partnership working is beginning to reap rewards, as councils genuinely work in partnership with professional independent sector concerns. A key ingredient to successful partnership working is clear service specification – carried out via consultation through provider forums – coupled with clear regulation. These factors will help produce quality outcomes for young people.

On Hillcrest: At Hillcrest we treat every NVQ as the absolute minimum standard and spend significant resources in-house on providing our staff with specific child-centred training. We work with local authority social services, SEN departments and local education authorities to improve outcomes for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties. Year-round residential care and full-time education is provided in 12 children’s homes and DfCSF-registered schools. We also have a network of foster carers providing nurturing homes from the south coast to North Yorkshire.

Gary Dawkins, managing director, children’s services at Care UK

On new ways of working: The development of fully integrated services for children, within a tight geographical area is particularly exciting. Particularly, the concept of residential care, fostering, health, therapy and education all working in tandem as this provides commissioners with more options, while ensuring that young people are provided with the appropriate intervention dependant on their needs. This integrated approach can circumnavigate the difficulties experienced by practitioners when trying to access services such as Camhs.

On Care UK: We provide services for young people in England and Wales. These include foster care, residential care in small homely and nurturing environments, activity-based crisis centres, specialist DfCSF-registered independent schools, as well as semi-independent and outreach services. Bespoke action plans for each young person enables us to focus on positive outcomes.

Colin Young, director of UK operations, Leonard Cheshire Disability

On new ways of working: Disabled people demand the same choices as non-disabled people. Funding mechanisms increasingly allow for disabled people to make their own decisions as to what service they will purchase and who the provider will be. Providers of direct support services, both commercial and not-for-profit, need to respond to individual need as opposed to general contracts.

On Leonard Cheshire: Leonard Cheshire Disability provides a wide range of direct support to a broad variety of client groups including people with physical impairments, people with learning difficulties, and people with an acquired brain injury. Our services have a strong focus on meeting individual needs and maximising independence and community participation. We are broadening our provision through innovative service developments, including projects relating to training, employment and business development, communication skills, computer technology and sport.

Louise Bond, director 4 Social Work

On new ways of working: The social work profession has changed considerably in recent years. Social workers are not allowed to practice in the UK unless they are registered with the General Social Care Council and Criminal Record Bureau checks have become mandatory. One challenge that has not gone away are staff shortages and locum social workers are increasingly being used. Locum social workers need to have an extremely flexible attitude and be calm under pressure because, at short notice, they are sometimes asked to step into unexpected and pressurised situations. For this reason we at 4Social Work look for – and the staff need to maintain – a skill set that is over and above academic qualifications and registration.

On 4Social Work: 4Social Work and Public Sector Staffing specialise in recruiting for social care professionals, administration and secretarial staff for public, private and voluntary sectors. We know that training is essential for candidates to develop their careers, so we contribute towards candidates increasing skills and knowledge. Our knowledge of registration and stringent vetting procedures ensure all our candidates have the experience that matches our clients staffing requirements.

Ben Bennett, executive director, Southern Care

On new ways of working: Consultation should be an open two-way communication, with local government commissioners identifying their own local needs and challenging providers not only through tenders but by establishing “professional contractual relationships”. Children and adults should be consulted on their care plans. Training can be enhanced by mixing staff from both public and private sector. This provides an opportunity to network.

On Southern Care: Southern Care’s residential homes along the South Coast are for children between 13-18 years with emotional, social behavioural difficulties. Our priority of working with local authorities over 10 years has resulted in a partnership with the Youth Offending Service for their referral panel and student social work placements with the local university and the Care Training Consortium. Our mission is to continue developing and evolving services adapted to local authority needs and improving outcomes for those involved in the social care industry.


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