‘Shop front’ social work service opens to the public

Calderdale council’s community social work practice is being run out of a shop in the local market and will be piloted for the next 12 months

The social work shop is situated in Halifax's Victorian marketplace. Photo: Calderdale council

Social workers in Calderdale hope a new ‘shop front’ service opening today will make them more accessible to their local communities.

The social work practice, known as ‘Better Lives at no.42’, is being run out of a shop in Halifax’s Victorian marketplace. It aims to provide support to people in the community at an earlier stage to prevent or delay the need for formal social care services in the future.

The service will be piloted for the next 12 months and is staffed by a team of 15 social workers. The shop has a downstairs space with coffee tables where people can walk in and chat to the team, as well as a room for more private conversations. There is office space for staff upstairs.

The support provided will depend on what a person is having difficulty with, but could include conversations about assistive technology, equipment or signposting to other services.

Team manager Liz Thorpe hopes the shop will make it easier for people to contact social care.

“I think it’s often a big hurdle for people to pick up the phone to an anonymous voice and start telling the story of their life and say that things are difficult. People also tend not to ring us until things are really bad – that’s how they get into the system,” she said.

“We will be there to talk and to hopefully get help in earlier so we can promote people’s independence and wellbeing. I’m hoping there will be a lot of spreading of the word – people will have a positive experience and encourage others to come and meet us.”

‘Conversations not assessments’

The community social work team has been in operation for three years and piloted a smaller version of the new practice last year. In the first six months they accepted over 1300 referrals and 96% of these were resolved without needing long-term involvement from social services.

Thorpe said the approach is about moving away from the care management model, getting social workers back out in the community and not “sitting behind Care Act assessments”.

“It’s not about assessments, it’s about conversations – what’s working for that person and where are the gaps. We’re about prevention and keeping people in the community,” she said.

“We hope the shop front will be successful and that we can use the ‘market theme’ in terms of opening up other hubs in localities around Calderdale over the next six to 12 months.”

Lorna Ryder, one of the social workers on the team, added: “There’s been quite a bit of interest already. People have seen the shop develop and are really curious, they want to know what we’re doing. You’ve got to know where to find a social worker and where we were based before, people wouldn’t know we were there – we are very visible now.”

The council took inspiration from the People2People social work practice in Shropshire and has been supported to develop the service by the National Development Team for Inclusion, which works with local authorities and organisations to develop community-led social work.

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21 Responses to ‘Shop front’ social work service opens to the public

  1. very mature student May 3, 2017 at 10:57 am #

    Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! What a breath of fresh air.

    A much needed resource for communities, and a good old fashioned face for people to see and talk to rather than faceless strangers at a call centre. If it reduces longer term, more intensive support at a later stage, then early intervention must be the key.

    A model all councils should follow.

    Well Done Calderdale!

  2. A Man Called Horse May 3, 2017 at 11:01 am #

    Ask not what your Local Council can do for you. Ask what you can do for yourself. Ask what your family can do. Ask what your neighbours and community can do. Do not ask why there is no money for public services anymore? This is about a small state. This is about low taxation. This is about the Tory vision of Workhouses shortly also opening on your Local high street. You think I am joking watch this space when Teresa gets back in at no 10

  3. very mature student May 3, 2017 at 11:27 am #

    PS – if manager is reading this from Calderdale – I qualify soon and be interested in coming to work at your shop! 🙂

    • Liz Thorpe May 6, 2017 at 12:29 pm #

      2 permanent posts have just gone on our website

      • very mature student May 8, 2017 at 10:15 am #

        Hi Liz

        Thanks for your response, I may give you a call for an informal chat.

  4. Louise Marshall May 3, 2017 at 1:22 pm #

    One stop shop worked well with a young parents group I ran several years ago. Good luck

  5. Anita Singh May 3, 2017 at 5:00 pm #

    This used to be the way that front line duty social workers operated in many local authorities more than thirty years ago. We are returning to a method for service delivery that really worked, rather than the faceless, distant and inaccessible service that exists today. Well done Calderdale for your common sense, thoughtful and person centered approach

    • Anita Singh May 3, 2017 at 5:09 pm #

      Oh and I forgot to add, that this was the method of service delivery during the days when teams were generic and therefore for the whole community for both children, adults and their families!

    • Susan May 4, 2017 at 2:59 pm #

      Yes, I remember those days of ‘community social work’ well. Then all the community offices were closed and replaced with an Orwellian named central ‘Access’ team. Naturally, access was much harder for those living outside of the city centre, i.e. pretty much everyone.

  6. Shirley May 3, 2017 at 5:40 pm #

    Yes, they used to called area team offices in people’s local communities 20/30 years ago. . It worked well. Wheel being reinvented.

  7. Dan May 3, 2017 at 6:18 pm #

    While in principle this sounds like a good idea, I’d be interested in a legal opinion on whether having conversations, not assessments is meeting the LA’s duty to carry out an assessment of anyone who appears to require care and support. If people walk into the shop and start to discuss their needs, the LA has become aware and I would assume the duty had been triggered for a proportionate assessment, not a conversation. Would there be an eligibility decision after the conversation? If not, how would you be able to keep eligible needs under review?

    • Peter Feldon May 5, 2017 at 12:31 pm #

      It’s important to respond to people making contact for the first time in a legally literate way. So in any conversation with or about an adult who appears to have needs for care and support, or a carer who appears to have needs for support, the bottom line in terms of the legal rules is that there must be an assessment resulting in a determination of eligibility unless it is clear that the local authority has no duty to assess.

      Legal literacy is about applying the legal rules in a professional and ethical way. In some cases the conversation could conclude that it is not relevant to proceed to determine eligibility, because the individual may prefer to pursue a course of action that does not require the involvement of the local authority. However, it is essential that at some point in the conversation that the individual is made aware of the local authority’s duty to assess and determine eligibility, and the individual has to be clear that this is something that they don’t require.

      The legal provision being applied here is the individual’s right to refuse an assessment under section 11 of the Care Act. But in applying this to a professional conversation it must be remembered that this ‘right to refuse’ does not apply where an individual lacks the capacity to ‘refuse’, or alternatively where the individual is experiencing (or at risk of) abuse or neglect.

      (If you have access to Community Care Inform you can read summaries of what the Act and statutory guidance say about first contact and the right to refuse in the A-Z of the Care Act 2014.)

      • Dan May 9, 2017 at 7:25 pm #

        Sorry, I don’t have access to CC inform.

        So am I right to understand that by simply having the conversation and advising that an assessment is available the legal duty is met if someone declines assessment?

        This sounds a lot like screening but using someone’s legal right to refuse as the legal basis for it. There would be incredibly high numbers of declined assessments in his case.

        I would consider this carefully. in order to give the correct advice, the same questions would need to be asked to complete an assessment. Although I suppose if there are less eligibility decisions, there will be less of an obvious need to provide services and less reviews of eligible need.

        I’ll be honest, the idea sounds radical but a bit dodgy…

  8. MH SW May 3, 2017 at 7:37 pm #

    Leeds have already piloted a similar scheme started out okay but the workers soon reverted back from conversation to assessments! Good luck

  9. very mature student May 4, 2017 at 10:27 am #

    My interpretation is this service will help determine need, face to face, not over the phone, and those people that meet threshold for support will have a full assessment, as per LA duty. And other people will be provided with information, advice and signposting for appropriate support according to their needs.

    Many people don’t/won’t pick up the phone to discuss their needs for whatever reason, and hence their needs/health/situation may deteriorate, and require greater LA intervention at a later stage. Therefore if this can be prevented by intervening earlier, albeit to ‘have a face to face conversation’ to establish level of need, and offer advice, that has to be a holistic, person centred approach to practice and a much more personal approach for the service user.

  10. Janet May 5, 2017 at 12:19 pm #

    OH for goodness sake! Yes this is wonderful and I wish them every success but it’s not a new innovative development from Calderdale – it’s what some of us were doing 20 or 30 years ago and have tried to do every since.

    • very mature student May 8, 2017 at 3:00 pm #

      It may not be a ‘new and innovative’, approach, however at least Calderdale has the forward thinking to keep moving and trying to reach people by having social workers in the heart of their community, accessible, amongst the people they serve, even if it is an old approach to practice.

      In my experience this is what people in need want and welcome from social care.

  11. Social Worker May 5, 2017 at 9:50 pm #

    It’s interesting how quick we seem to revert to defining social work intervention by eligibility and statutory assessment to make sense of it. As the Team Manager indicates, that isn’t social work. Assessment is a function, eligibility for services is statute. But the social work I feel people really want is everything else. The stuff that genuinely matters is our compassion, empathy, friendship, advocacy, support, upholding human rights, standing side by side with the person. I hope this shop is all that and more. The feeling I get from this article & the language used by those interviewed makes me think it just might be possible. Good luck.

  12. Liz Thorpe May 6, 2017 at 11:48 pm #

    Lovely to see all the positive comments. Just to clarify on a few of the queries; if people need a Care Act assessment then that’s fine and we have other teams that do that (in line with our statutory duty).
    Also someone mentioned time away from people to offload and get peer support. Our social workers do three hour stints in the shop about once a week. The rest of the time they are working on their caseload
    If anyone wants to come and see us and talk about what we do please get in touch

  13. Tom J May 10, 2017 at 11:25 am #

    Is this a PR exercise?

    Is Calderdale in a parallel universe? My direct experience is that adult social care is at absolute breaking point; long waiting for assessments, even longer waiting for services to be provided, people stuck on hospital beds, Care Act duties being avoided whenever possible, the list goes on….

    Meanwhile, Calderdale has money hanging around to offer a ‘who fancies some help?’ pop in shop.

    I guess the proof of the pudding is in the tasting; so if I were to stroll into this shop today; A) will they be able to see me? b) Will they have the resources to meet needs?

    If the answer is NO then this is just a PR exercise. If the answer is YES then how the heck has the austerity agenda avoided Calderdale?