Social workers are failing to signpost service users to valuable sources of support from peers and community organisations because of a lack of awareness of what’s on offer and insufficient trust in users’ own abilities.
That was the conclusion from two reports published today by think-tank the Centre for Welfare Reform, as part of its development of a model of adult social work that avoids the bureaucracy associated with the implementation of personalisation in some areas.
The studies, on peer support and community engagement, found people with personal budgets were missing out on valuable information, advocacy and help in support planning from fellow service users and local groups outside the care system such as churches, leisure clubs or neighbourhood groups.
This was because social workers were often not aware of what was available locally and did not have sufficient trust in service users to manage the support planning process without professional advice.
Peer support offered something distinctive to service users by enabling them to build relationships with people who had had similar experiences, boosting self-esteem and improving motivation among personal budget holders, the report on this issue found.
However, it added: “Many peer support organisations and networks have expressed their readiness to be involved in the future of personalisation, but often find they don’t have the access to the people who would benefit most from their assistance.”
In addition, many community groups were already helping people with support needs in an informal way, but “needed to be organised in a way that made sense to people looking to direct their own support”, said the study on community engagement.
Recommendations included that social workers should:
• Offer services users access to a peer supporter as routine.
• Ask service users if they want to be a peer supporter when carrying out reviews of their needs.
• Beware creating a “professional version” of peer support.
• Build up a register of community groups able to support service users, looking beyond social care providers.
• Simplify the support planning process to enable community groups to support individuals in identifying how their needs can be met.
Both reports were written for the centre by Kate Fulton and Claire Winfield of disability consultancy Paradigm, based on work they had done with councils including York, North East Lincolnshire and Blackburn with Darwen.
This is part of the centre and Pardigm’s work to develop a “new script for social work”, in which practitioners enable helping personal budget holders to plan their own support, with help from infomal networks.
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