Councils to test ‘community-led’ social work models using Care Act freedoms

Practitioners say new models that have social work values at heart could devolve choice, control and power to people using services

Mary Hastings (second from right, bottom row) with other members of the People2People team

Three local authorities have signed-up to a programme to develop ‘community-led social work’ models based on learning from the People2People adult social work practice set up by Shropshire council.

Calderdale, Denbighshire and Wakefield councils are working with The National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi) on the project. The NDTi will support the local authorities to develop different models of delivery to promote proactive and preventive social work, ranging from outsourced social enterprises to redesigns of in-house local authority run services.

People2People was one of seven adult social work practices set up as part of a Department of Health pilot scheme in 2010. An evaluation of the pilot scheme revealed mixed results across the seven sites but People2People was identified as a success story. The social enterprise is now the main first point of contact for adult social care in Shropshire.

Care Act changes

Changes being introduced under the Care Act in April 2015 give local authorities in England the option to outsource adult social work, so Calderdale and Wakefield could opt to recreate the model adopted by People2People. However, Welsh Assembly legislation does not currently allow for outsourcing so Denbighshire will be exploring ways to deliver community-led social work within in-house council-run services.

Jenny Pitts, a former managing director of People2People who remains a non-executive director of the social enterprise, will be heading up the NDTi project. She told Community Care that the programme would be looking at a range of approaches.

“We’re going to be looking not just at social enterprises but also how far you can go in having an in-house service that might have its own identity and branding. The important thing is having the right culture and way of working and having teams based out in the community with those connections with local stakeholders,” she said.

“I think you might be likely to get those wins quicker with the social enterprise because it can really give staff that motivation and energy and identity but it will be interesting to see how that can happen within local authorities too.”

‘Social work at a crossroads’

Rob Mitchell, principal social worker at Calderdale council, said that social work “is at a crossroads” and needed to consider a range of options for improving care and support.

“Community based social work, run by a practice that reflects the profession’s value base, could truly devolve choice, control and crucially power to people who require social work support in their lives,” he said.

Pitts said that the NDTi programme is also about trying to make social work “accountable to local people” and responsive to the people it serves. This will involve community stakeholders and frontline staff taking a role in shaping services rather than the local authority’s voice being the only one dictating delivery, she said.

“You need all voices to be heard to get this right. And if we get this right social workers will feel enthusiastic and feel that they have some influence on how they work. And we’ll see less process and paperwork and more collaboration and partnership working based around an individual,” she said.

“We want the services to feel part of their community and also be more effective at responding. Things like long waiting lists sit very heavily on people’s shoulders. We want an effective system to raise morale and energy levels. The Care Act emphasises proactive and preventive work. Social workers are really skilled to do that so we need to try and release them from some of the day-to-day grind that takes them away from it.”

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