"What can we do for the NHS?" but "What can we do, together, for our citizens?"

Monday 14th October 2013

Budget constraints, health inequalities, a low-paid workforce, relentless demographic pressures and stubborn resistance to quality improvement are all chains and padlocks barring the way to a better brighter future, according to ADASS President Sandie Keene. She went on: they are impediments which must be removed to help us unlock the potential of the citizen and the state.

Speaking at the annual national children and adults social care conference in Harrogate today, Mrs Keene stressed that to achieve these improvements, adult social services directors will need to create new conversations, promote new opportunities for innovation, and harness potential within families and across communities.

She argued that promoting the active and engaged citizenship of everyone is a prerequisite for our future. The need to build our support systems by recognising the strengths, not deficits, of people is now an established direction... At the heart of these efforts, though, is the respect and empowerment of individuals within their families and communities to achieve potential, self-reliance and social and economic contribution, irrespective of their circumstances. And we can help or hinder their progress.

She went to emphasise in particular the importance of welding the private and voluntary sectors into `vibrant new partnerships which can be created by developing a higher level of community engagement between private sector companies, social enterprises and the wider third sector.* Building on shared values between companies and the voluntary sector, revitalised corporate social responsibility is successful as a long-term investment for business, rather than a gift. It benefits both parties, she said.

And with a sideways glance at the Care Bill currently before Parliament: The achievement of this kind of thing will be an imperative if we are to square the circle of the strategic dissonance of underfunding with new duties of prevention, promotion of independence, rights and entitlements, which are enshrined in the forthcoming Act. No-one from the sector can be resistant to the aspirations and direction in which this legislation takes us.

She added that the volume of recent pioneer applications shows a system poised to join health and social care services at the front line in order to improve the experience of people who need them.

And she left no one in audience unaware of the `ingenuity and creativity needed across the care sector to ensure its successful and costed implementation. These qualities will be paramount as we deepen the spread of personalisation and improve our commissioning practices. The keys needed to address quality issues are held in many hands: commissioners, providers and regulators all have roles to play.

On current funding negotiations over the £3.8 billion Integration Transformation Fund she warned that discussion should not be focused exclusively on this fund, but on the totality of health and care budgets to encourage their use around locality not institution. Ask not `what can we do for the NHS but `what can we do together for our citizens, she demanded.

More generally on integration she said: Integrating front line multi-professional teams will mean a review of the skills required. Social workers will draw in the voluntary sector and carers support workers within the locality team, ensuring that the right levels of advice, guidance and advocacy sit side by side with the universal offer. Re-energising the pride, positivity and can-do attitude of the social work profession is a priority.

Despite the challenge, there is an opportunity for social work to come of age with a golden key for a new, shiny front door that opens at a single push and welcomes all in need of a health or social care service.

Mrs Keene continued to pull out the importance to the sector of new technologies and of sector-led improvement initiatives the latter an important tool to craft the keys we need for improvement and change. And of the former she said, bringing company and companionship into people's homes electronically via interactive TV is increasingly recognised as making a significant difference to isolation and an important preventive development alongside the more familiar telecare interventions.

And she concluded: My theme today has touched on the importance of leaders creating the environment where shared endeavour will unlock the potential of our citizens and organisations. I hope I have shown that potential can come in many forms and from many directions, some of them unexpected. Given the right mind-set, we can see opportunity at every turn.


For further information contact:
Sandie Keene, ADASS President, 01132 47870
Drew Clode, ADASS Media/Policy Adviser, 020 8348 5023/07976 837755

Editorial Notes

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) represents directors and senior managers of adult social services departments in English local authorities. Directors (DASSs) have statutory responsibilities for the social care of older people, adults with disabilities and adults with mental health needs.

In many authorities ADASS members will also share a number of responsibilities for the provision and/or commissioning of housing, leisure, libraries, culture, and community safety on behalf of their councils. More than a third of DASSs are also the statutory director of childrens services for their authority.

A personal budget is a clear, upfront amount of funding from adult social care which individuals can spend on the services and support they need to help them live more independently. It can be used to buy services from both the council and other providers, mixing and matching whats available from different organisations.

Anyone aged 18 or over who is eligible for social care support can have a personal budget - but it is down to individuals whether they manage their budget themselves or whether someone else does this on their behalf.

* Mrs Keene quoted an example from her own authority Leeds City Council - where there is a network of local neighbourhood organisations whose volunteers are in the main retired people. They can draw on ex-teachers, administrators, nurses and engineers who want to use their skills and be active. One of the Leeds organisations has joined up with First Direct Bank with a proposal for staff volunteer time in return for a varied training programme covering communication and listening skills, health and safety, safeguarding and caring for people living with strokes, dementia and disabilities. First Direct has initially released 210 hours of volunteer staff-time and have been so impressed with the outcome that they have now contributed some of the company training budget to support the mutual benefits derived by both organisations.