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Social care in the spotlight

Published Thursday, 21st March 2019

People sitting listening to presentation.

The importance of human relationships was the focus of World Social Work Day at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council.

World Social Work Day on Tuesday 19 March is a worldwide celebration of social work and its importance and it comes after Southend-on-Sea adult social care team came second nationally for providing value for taxpayer’s money.

Research carried out by iMPOWER, measured performance against outcomes, per pound invested. In other words, the study assesses the effective use of adult social care budgets to offer residents the services they need, with a good success rate.

After evaluating 25 indicators including older people, all age disability and health and social care interface, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council came second nationally, behind Redbridge Council.

Cllr Tony Cox, cabinet member for adult services and housing, said: “Supporting our most vulnerable people to lead fulfilling lives is something we take pride in and are absolutely committed to, and we are therefore delighted with this result.

“Like all local authorities we face challenges and pressures in this area, providing excellent services within restrictive budgets. This detailed iMPOWER research clearly demonstrates that we are spending our resources carefully and effectively and delivering real results for local people across a number of areas in adult social care.”

Just one of the innovative schemes introduced at Southend and celebrated as part of World Social Work Day is the low to moderate multi-disciplinary team meetings (MDT). The weekly meetings involve social workers, NHS staff, police, mental health workers, voluntary groups, community groups, local charities and more. Anyone can refer into the MDT and since its introduction two years ago, the team has worked together to support hundreds of people in situations where if there had not been intervention, could have escalated to a crisis point.

Mark Carrigher, community social work practice lead, explains: “By being involved earlier, we are making sure the person has the right care and support in place for their needs, at that time. It’s a new way of working because it focuses on prevention and places the person at the centre.

“For example, we helped one very lonely and vulnerable man, who kept inviting strangers into his house simply for company. He was referred into the MDT because of the recurring safeguarding issues. We assigned him an advocate, built up his trust and found out what he really wanted was to be reunited with his estranged family. We supported him with this and he is now living near them on the south coast and is much happier and safer.”

The team also showed their partnership working with a case referred to the MDT by the person’s sister who was increasingly worried about her brother’s mental health and quality of living. After the MDT’s intervention, he and his family were given the support they needed to address his mental health issues and he has slowly recovered. But the support continued, getting the man back into his previous self-employment role with the help of the mental health employment navigators.

Mental health employment navigators are another tool being used by the adult social care team to boost social care support.

The two navigator roles are funded for 12-months by the Department of Work and Pensions, but are provided by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and they use their knowledge and awareness of local services to support people with all sorts of mental wellbeing issues to get back into work.

Jo Tunstill and Unity Hewson started as navigators just before Christmas 2018 and deal with referrals from social workers, charities, self-referrals and partner organisations, to assess a person’s needs and help them access the support services they require. They are also available for drop-in sessions at places like the St Luke’s Hub, Victoria Hub, Shoeburyness Library, the Attic and others.

Jo said: “This is a new role, and I feel like we have been able to make it our own. We work together, make home visits, run drop-in sessions and are on hand at the job centre. Our role is to connect with people, get them to understand that we want to help and support them. We don’t want to force people with mental health issues into jobs where they might not be able to cope. But we do want to help prepare them and make sure they are getting access to all the support they need so when they feel able to, they can get back into work. And most of the people we see, want to work.”

Unity added: “The idea is by encouraging them to take small steps to make changes, it will lead onto bigger and better things. We are very flexible in our approach as we appreciate that everyone is different and sometimes mental health issues such as anxiety or paranoia, can prevent people from readily accepting help. But we’re persistent and I think it helps that we’re genuine, we care and we don’t just leave people to it. We follow up with them.”

Cllr Cox added: “The schemes the adult social care team have introduced, including the MDT and mental health employment navigators is why we earned second place in the iMPOWER league. They are innovative schemes that are designed to step in and help a person before they reach crisis.

“There is the help and support out there but often, people don’t know who to ask or where to turn to. By getting out there in the community, working with partner organisations and sharing information between professionals, we are able to provide a service which can be tailored to each individual, giving them the best care and support we can. World Social Work Day will also help highlight the work being done and give the teams the recognition they deserve, for what is a demanding job. ”

In the agreed budget for 2019/20, £5.7m has been set aside to ensure the council can meet the many demands and cost pressures being faced in adults and children’s services now and into the future, deal with the impact of the living wage and invest in continuing to transform these services. These investments will be funded through the adult social care precept, the new social care grant and increased resources from the Better Care Fund (BCF).

To read more about the iMPOWER report please visit the TheMJ website.