THERE WAS A TIME when ADASS regional branch meetings felt like a welcome respite from the trials of being a director, a place of calm with the time to reflect and share. The role of regional chair never felt to me to be a particularly onerous one, as in my view the benefit of a place on the ADASS executive easily outweighed the burdens of the role.

This has of course changed as the adult social care agenda has picked up such pace since those halcyon times. But the real game changer has been sector-led Improvement. All the regions have responded to this positively and we have certainly embraced sector-led improvement as an organisation. Regions have adopted a variety of methods to assess and compare performance and outcomes and to use peer challenge, some with a very structured approach and others with a more informal collaboration. This has however altered the role of the ADASS regional chair significantly.

Regional chairs now have to understand when to ensure that appropriate help is made available to their peers, engage less engaged authorities and at the same time manage expectations. Clearly they are not responsible for the performance of any authorities other than their own and have no means of knowing everything that is going on across a large region.

All of the above is before any mention of the added duty placed on regional chairs by the assurance process for the Better Care Fund (surely the subject of a whole separate article!). In addition the urgency and the importance of implementation of the Care Act requires a different level of collaboration between authorities in, and between,  regions.

After a vigorous debate we agreed the ADASS mandate for sector-led improvement in 2012. I think we need to review this in the light of the changes that have taken place and work that David Walden and Rachel Ayling are doing for the TEASC board on our management of the risk of underperformance.

Alongside this review we do need to strengthen the role of the regional branches and raise the profile of the work that is taking place at different levels across all of the regions. We surely need to replicate the best examples.

We are a membership organisation and while we can’t compel individual authorities to do anything, we can strongly encourage our members to comply with perceived best practice and offer access to support and help to do so. Sector-led improvement gives a bit more edge to this. I have always thought that this has considerable implications for ADASS as an organisation but that we should go into this with our eyes open. This means seeing the regional branches as the engine house of ADASS and supporting them accordingly.

We need to be clear about the extent and the limitations of the role of the regional chair and at the same time have an open debate about the extent to which we should encourage one model of sector-led improvement or settle for significant regional variation. In any event the strengthening of the ADASS infrastructure should help with this. Working with the new LGA advisors we ought to be able to set out what the offer is for the regional branches and what help is available to the regional chairs We will have the new website to share and showcase best practice and successes. 

ADASS regions need the right structures around them in order for them to function as effectively as possible in these challenging times and as a sector we need to promote our successes in continuing to improve social care outcomes. It is essential that we have a strong regional voice to do this.  

Harold Bodmer
ADASS Regional Lead