Critical learning from four different systems for the successful integration of social care and health services

This paper originated from discussions on best practice that took place between ADSW, ADASS and ADSS NI at the ADSW spring seminar in Crieff on 18th March. Further discussions were held in Warwick in April and in Dublin on 18th June. These latter meetings also involved ADSW Cymru and Cate Hartigan of the European Social Network.

It drew upon practice and research knowledge, outlines the critical factors found within successfully integrated practices and the contribution of social services to this work. It aims to provide staff across key services with an informed, sophisticated but accessible and practical ‘ready reckoner’ of best approaches to the challenge of successful integration – a short cut to increased capacity and improved performance.

Research evidence and the practical experience of directors and social services organisations would suggest that there are four critical factors for success:

  • A clearly articulated and widely shared vision of ‘why, how and for what benefits?’ 
  • A medium to long term financial strategy that is realistic about costs.
  • Flexible organisational arrangements that support a common purpose.
  • Attention to matters of culture through effective leadership.

Evidence shows that successful integration relies upon more than a structural or contractual relationship with other key public services. Central to success is the integration of outcomes for the individual with organisational goals and the customer experience across multiple sectors. Many sectors share the commitment to the principle of promoting independence, wellbeing and self reliance that sits at the heart of social services. We also have different drivers. Mutual respect and understanding will lead to better contributions from professionals and improved outcomes for the public. 

This paper seeks to clarify the central contribution of social services to delivering change based on best research and practice knowledge as part of an integrated service.