Team Players

Curriculum Vitae

Name: Kate Wareing.

Job: Supporting People manager, Oxfordshire.

Qualifications: BA politics, philosophy and
economics, Oxford University; membership of the Chartered Institute
of Housing.

Last job: Business manager for a housing

First job: Auditor with the National Audit

Independence can massively improve the quality of people’s
lives. However, to have a decent shot at independence, vulnerable
people need their own long-term, safe and convenient place to

To address this, the government launched Supporting People in April
2003. Councils were given commissioning budgets for housing-related
support services for vulnerable groups and developed working
partnerships with local government, service users and support

One such partnership in Oxfordshire, comprising the county council,
three district councils, and health and probation services, is now
so effective that it has been awarded beacon status.

“We were particularly praised for our approach to partnership
working,” says Supporting People manager Kate Wareing. “We had been
working on these structures for a couple of years before becoming
operational last year but a lot of our success is down to everyone
at the table being an equal partner and having a real role.”

Essentially, Wareing understood that, to be effective, the partner
representatives who sit on the commissioning body needed the
delegated authority to make decisions – and, despite difficulties,
this has been achieved. She says: “It may not sound like a huge
deal but it has been a big step for some of them. And now we have a
group who can meet and who can decide. Their decisions are open to
scrutiny in the normal political way but they haven’t got to go via
six separate executives to be agreed. What we have now is a group
of people who can take a view on how to spend our £21m annual
budget for Oxfordshire rather than being swayed by individual
organisations’ interests.”

Nationally, anecdotal evidence suggests that probation and health
have been the more difficult partners to involve. For Wareing this
may be because housing is seen as peripheral to their main
business. “Whereas for housing and social care it is very much core
business – so it is far more obvious to them why it is worth
putting in the time,” she says. “We have made sure that health and
probation realised how useful it was for them to become

“From a probation perspective there’s a strong correlation between
people having support and stable accommodation when they leave
prison and re-offending, so it’s vital that these are available for
them. From a health perspective, we fund services for teenage mums,
and services that can help prevent falls for older people and aid
hospital discharge. Taking the agenda to partners in a way they
understand has been critical to getting them involved.”

Another successful aspect has been the working relationship with
providers. “We did a lot of work to help them get ready for
Supporting People and to make sure they were involved,” Wareing
says. “We have a provider forum which is independently chaired.
This gives them a voice – a way of lobbying back, if you

Significantly, the forum elects two representatives to sit on the
core strategy group which recommends policy and plans to the
commissioning body.

Wareing adds: “This has worked well. Our provider sector has
behaved in an constructive and supportive way. They have been
willing, for example, to share quite detailed financial information
about their costs structures enabling them as a group to work more

Inevitably, the enterprise has relied on everybody’s ability to
compromise. “There are people around the table who have individual
priorities, but we have to reach a consensus – it’s not done by
majority voting,” Wareing says. “So far we have always managed to
reach that consensus because we have a group whose agenda is to
maximise the benefit we can get out of the money we’ve got for the
people of Oxfordshire.” 


  • Give people the delegated power to make decisions without
    having to refer back to their organisations.
  • Be aware of the political context that the partnership is
    working in.
  •  Agree objectives that all partners can subscribe to


  • Aim low with your objectives so that everybody will feel that
    only a minimum of effort is required.
  • Expect people to look after their own interests first.


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