Portsmouth City Council are on the road map towards developing their information and advice strategy.

Sarah Langston
Sara Langston , Portsmouth City Council's Adult Social Care department
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TLAP's Information and Advice Strategy Toolkit was tested by several local authorities in a series of regional workshops and we will shortly be updating it with fresh resources based on their feedback. Following on from this work, these pilot sites are now well underway to producing their strategies.

Sarah Langston, Universal Information Development Officer at Portsmouth City Council's Adult Social Care Department describes the process.

It's been six months since our first meeting with Rachel Ayling, Self-employed Consultant and Interim Manager in Adult Social Care and Linda Doherty, Information and Advice Lead and with their support we've come a very long way. Our minutes from this time record such vague ambitions as "agree realistic actions", so we've been grateful for the expert guidance and supportive approach of our TLAP colleagues, because until this point, we felt that we had no idea what we were doing! I hope by admitting this we will reassure a few others that you can still get somewhere even when this is your starting point.

After our second meeting, where we discussed what these 'realistic actions' might be, we realised we'd jumped the gun completely. The toolkit provides a road-map that guides you each step of the way, starting conveniently with "Getting Started" and has tactical questions to make sure you're considering the right things in the right order. When we found ourselves lost in the maze of "How will we get there" before we'd had a good look at "Where do we need to get to?" we realised we needed to turn back and follow the map properly.

We found it easiest to work through the toolkit by transferring it to a Word Document where each question could be accompanied by notes recording our progress. Our small strategy group, consisting of the Information Development Officer (me), my Team Manager and Senior Manager, met weekly from then on.

Weekly meetings kept the momentum up, which was helpful as the first question in the toolkit was "Is the Health & Wellbeing Board sponsoring the development of this strategy?" and the answer to this was slightly panicked looks all round, followed by a chat with the board's advisor, who gave us some good news and some bad news. The good news was that there was already a Care Act item in the agenda for the next meeting, which meant the Information and Advice Strategy could be accommodated fittingly. The bad news was that this meeting was in three months, and the board would want to be presented with a finished article to sign off. We had quite a bit of work to do.

Balancing this short timescale with our keenness to co-produce the strategy with stakeholders led to our decision to split the strategy in two. The first part we're calling the Vision Statement, which is what we'll ask the Health & Wellbeing Board to sponsor. This describes where we want to get to and the principles that will guide us there. Our community engagement work over the last few years and TLAP's suite of resources on Information, Advice and Brokerage gave us a good idea where we needed to get to, so we could focus our stakeholder engagement at this stage on tailoring this to our city.

Over two weeks we gathered feedback from nearly 250 stakeholders, around half from colleagues in health, social care and other public services, a quarter local businesses and voluntary organisations, and a quarter individuals. This has helped us to shape our scope, aims and approach to our local community, but also by agreeing the vision together we hope to have laid strong foundations for the next stage, which is co-producing our Implementation Plan. This will involve more in-depth consultation over the coming months.

The implementation plan is also split in two. One workstream will cover our own information, advice and signposting, ensuring we meet the requirements of the Care Act. This actually seems quite straightforward in comparison to the second workstream, which looks at how we can facilitate information, advice and signposting within the community. This work will be guided by stakeholders and will explore potential opportunities to pool resources, reduce duplication, or increase take-up of preventative services.

I'm cautiously optimistic that this means we can tick off the "agree realistic actions" note from March, but we'll come back and update you in a few months. It certainly feels less daunting now that we've worked through the toolkit methodically, and we're quite excited by the challenge ahead. We'd like to hear how other local authorities are getting on with their Information and Advice Strategy, so if you want to get in touch contact involvedsocialcare@portsmouthcc.gov.uk


Posted on by Old Site User

Sara, I was heartened to read of the enthusiasm you and colleagues in Portsmouth are approaching this work. I was responsible at DH for the Information and advice duty in the Care Act, and the published statutory guidance. Although it was very much based on what people were already doing I am aware that it was 'all words' and that to implement it locally would be a far more difficult job than writing it. Working with TLAP to develop useful support and practice ideas has involved interests from all over the country and it's good to get the feedback that some of this is helpful and relevant. Developing and maintaining partnerships, whether locally or nationally, is our constant challenge and I think we need to recognise and be realistic just how much time and effort needs to go into this. Good luck with the continuing work.


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