It's not about reinventing the wheel
We were trying to integrate social care and health services in my first job in the sector nearly three decades ago, although we've undoubtedly made progress there is still much to do.
The pressure on both sectors to work together continues to be driven by two main factors - the tight economic climate and, more importantly, people who need care and support being much more demanding about having joined up provision that meets their individual needs
They are dead right to demand more. Care and support must be about choice and control and, for me, the starting point is encouraging people from the social care and health sectors to actually talk with each other more.
In fact talking about the two sectors as two separate sectors is in itself unhelpful which is why Skills for Care's Workforce Innovation Programme has been supporting projects that look at what happens when social care and health professionals do work together. We've pulled together the findings from a number of projects across England and the results give us plenty of food for thought.
A good example of doing something really simple was the JackDawe project in Nottingham where home care workers and managers work with mental health nurses and occupational therapists to support some 180 people living with dementia. Their answer to working together better was straightforward - they simply moved into the same building. This not only led to the teams working in a much more joined up way, but the service forged links with the centre that takes the telecare calls, the fire service, the Alzheimer's Society, meals at home and- critically - carers.
So my vision of a personalised world is the individual who needs care and support is at the centre of a network of support who are all talking with each other to ensure people have real choice and control.
TLAP has rightly put this sort of joined up approach at the centre of its thinking and I think another area of work we need to focus on in the coming year is how people who need care and support fully engage with the community they live in. ADASS President Sandie Keene, who co-chairs the TLAP Programme Board, put this idea in the spotlight in her address to the NCAS Conference in October and she was right to do so.
If we're genuinely committed to personalised services then we can't have people sitting in their homes hoping to live a full life - we have to work together to make it happen. Skills for Care's Workforce Innovation team have been doing a huge amount of work to test what that looks like and, the good news is, it does work.
I visited a social care project recently where they have put community assets development at the heart of their work. They told me about a man with alcohol dependency issues who was calling the emergency services 10 times a month because he was lonely. The ambulance service referred him to this project and he told one of their workers he 'just wanted to die.' That social care worker took time to listen and simply asked him what he liked doing and he said fishing so they got in touch with a local fishing club run by volunteers and they agreed he could join them.
The result was he now calls the emergency services once a month with legitimate health related issues. Not only has that person's well-being been enhanced giving him choice and control over his life again, but local people are actively engaging with social care in a way they never thought possible, Oh, and the other by-product is the significant amount of money saved as he doesn't make inappropriate calls to the ambulance service.
TLAP is a key player in driving forward the personalisation agenda, and this year should be about drilling down into what make joined up services work across social care and health, and also housing, understanding the links to the communities people live in and sharing the best practice as widely as possible.
It's not about reinventing the wheel, but nurturing and spreading the innovation already happening on the frontline.