How two projects are transforming social work in the North West

Community Care finds out how two North West projects are rethinking adoption and home care services

Pic Credit: Ben Sutherland

Pic Credit: Ben Sutherland

Project: WWISH Adoption Service

Location:St Helens, Warrington, Wigan

Founded in 2011, WWISH Adoption Service brought together the adoption work of St. Helens, Warrington and Wigan councils to create an adoption service that takes advantage of economies of scale to improve support and save money.

Before WWISH’s creation, the three councils involved faced challenges in placing children in their local area, resulting in more use of expensive out-of-area placements.

WWISH was the solution. “I’m employed by Wigan and in the past we had a really low proportion of children placed with our own adopters,” says Paul Connolly, manager of WWISH.

“We’ve now got a much higher proportion of children placed with WWISH adopters because we’ve got a bigger geographical range, so now a Wigan child who might be at risk if they were placed in Wigan can be placed in St. Helens or Warrington and vice-versa rather than other agencies.”

Adoption support has also benefited with the unified team better placed to offer more specialist training and support such as mental health or substance misuse preparation groups to adopters.

“We can now offer adopter support on a proactive not just a reactive basis,” says Connolly.

The combined service has also reaped benefits on the bottom line. Connolly says the service now recruits “an awful lot more” adopters than the three authorities did alone and more of the children on its books are being adoptive.

Project: Home care ethical standard

Location: Oldham

Oldham’s quest to enhance social care has also led to the creation of an “ethical model” for home care. Under the scheme, which began in February, the council rethought its approach to commissioning home care in the borough.

The council decided that it would only commission good or excellent providers and also required them to pay staff a living wage of £7.22 per hour. “Instead of asking companies to compete for tenders on price and quality, we set a price and set out to only have providers who are excellent or good,” said Paul Cassidy, director of adult social services at Oldham.

Providers are also required to have most of their staff on “proper” rather than zero hours contracts and must be paid for the time spent travelling between clients.

“The companies weren’t happy about this so what we agreed with them was to give them flexibility to agree with the customer different timings for the provision of care provided it meets the customer’s needs,” says Cassidy.

“That makes it easier for providers to plan their rotas, but it also means if the customer wants to change their arrangements, which they often do, there’s in-built flexibility.”

The council hopes that using its buying power in this way will force up the standard of care.

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