Following the success of Shropshire’s ‘People2People’ community-led social work national pilot, three further local authorities plan to develop their own locally tailored models based on this learning. The National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi), working with Shropshire Council and People2People, are now supporting Calderdale, Denbighshire and Wakefield to share good practice and explore how the concept could work for them.
Established by the local authority in 2012 and operating as a social enterprise led by staff and community members, People2People has shown that it is possible to provide a swifter, more responsive service with reduced bureaucracy and a greater focus on connecting people to community resources and networks. People2People is now the main vehicle of delivery for community based adult social work and occupational therapy in Shropshire, resulting in improved outcomes for local people, a more motivated staff team and significant efficiencies for the council.
Community-led social work is made possible by the Care Act, which comes into force in April 2015, allowing local authorities to delegate social work functions and develop alternatives to traditional delivery models.
Rob Mitchell, Principle Social Worker at Calderdale Council said:
“Social Work is at a crossroads where to flourish it needs to consider a number of options regarding its future. 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.”
The experience in Shropshire shows that it is possible to redesign processes and change the culture of practice. Social workers are encouraged to have ‘different conversations’ to capture information about what really matters to the person and their family. The emphasis is on preventative support through information, advice and face to face discussions where needed, which mostly take place in local communities. Traditional service solutions are only considered once natural and community supports have been exhausted.
Shropshire Council’s Director of Adult Services, Stephen Chandler, said:
“In Shropshire we have worked with all our partners to fundamentally change the way we support local people. People2People has shown that social work can be much more effective when it’s community based and driven by its staff and local people. Working in partnership with a host of other organisations, we are investing in developing resilient and supportive communities across Shropshire. This partnership is crucial and is enabling front line support to happen more effectively within our communities, removing duplication, delays and unnecessary bureaucracy by everyone working together with a common vision and a shared value of promoting independence, preventing crises and supporting people well.”
Jenny Pitts, programme lead at NDTi said:
“The evidence in Shropshire is that people who use adult care services are positive about their experiences and (of importance in these difficult times) these things have been achieved whilst significantly reducing expenditure. We believe community-led voluntary organisations delivering social work could be transformative, enabling a culture shift to person-centred, outcomes-focused practice, as well as financial savings. We are very much looking forward to working with the other areas to continually build on our shared learning and experience about what works.”
The NDTi has a well established history and expertise of working with local authorities and community organisations to achieve change through the development of new practice and new ways of working with a focus that includes achieving sustainable development, social inclusion and austerity with integrity. Local Authorities wishing to explore the community-led model of social work should contact Jenny Pitts at the National Development Team for Inclusion: firstname.lastname@example.org.