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.