What’s next for TLAP?

As Caroline Speirs, Head of TLAP, departs for pastures new, she shares her reflections on the TLAP partnership after ten years of activity, and her ambitions for its continued success.

Let’s start with TLAP’s mission statement which hasn’t changed in ten years:

“We are a national partnership of more than 50 organisations committed to transforming health and care through personalisation and community-based support.”

That ‘transforming’ verb is key.  We have always talked about transforming rather than tinkering.  There are some things that are beyond improvement, some things require rebuilding.  Similarly, we’ve always talked about making it real, rather than making it do.  And we’ve never settled for easy conversations when what was needed is challenging dialogue.

Has personalisation lost its way?

And we must be getting something right. After a decade of unprecedented austerity, we’re still here. Like any partnership we’ve had our ups and downs.  Many of us will acknowledge that over the last few years it felt like personalisation had lost its way, after all the excitement of Putting People First, cross-party concordats and even ringfenced funding for transformation (imagine!). That was followed by the Care Act, a force for good with its regard for wellbeing, prevention, early intervention, flexibility, choice and control and so on. It certainly felt as if this incredible policy shift – this new legislation that had the potential to be a genuine game changer – was no longer a key objective. Apparently deemed unaffordable and unattainable. Making the case very brutally that great policy and great legislation is never enough; it’s nothing if it’s not implemented.

It’s fair to say that over the last 2 or 3 years we’ve experienced a renewed interest in and understanding of the value of personalisation and the role of community.  And I think the TLAP partnership can claim some credit for this.  Over the last few years we have negotiated our way into important conversations and high-level meetings and have always managed to avoid being told ‘your names not on the list….  you’re not coming in”!

Truth be told, these days TLAP’s name seems to be on everybody’ s list and we are invited to everything. If the team were twice as big we would still struggle to respond to all the invitations we receive. And that’s progress. That’s impact.

We have heard from many organisations including local authorities who have a real appetite to transform. We are witnessing encouraging signs from our colleagues at DHSC who want to open up to a wider range of groups - our colleagues with lived experience now spend regular time in conversation with the minister.  And the ball appears to be rolling again in relation to social care reform.

And of course, we have also seen the positive outcome of the TLAP evaluation.  TLAP can claim, with some authority, that is it the go-to partnership for support on personalisation and co-production.

A genuine power sharing arrangement

That this is still very much unfinished business is a statement of the obvious but it seems to the TLAP team there are great opportunities lying in wait for the TLAP partnership. Because, in my very humble opinion, it is a remarkable, unique partnership.

The TLAP partnership model is a genuine power sharing arrangement - is there anything like it in terms of bringing together diverse voices, experiences and insights, all working together to the same hopeful end of creating something so much better? The unique nature of this partnership, its strength and the combined experience and influence seems to me to matter now more than ever.  Government has committed to reform social care and this partnership now has a role to play in leading the way to that reformed social care.  

Just consider the very fragmented nature of the social care sector.  A partnership that pulls all corners together has got to have value.  This partnership knows what works.  It knows what good looks like.  It knows all of the wicked issues and collectively it has the wisdom, the experience, and the insight to come up with the solutions - it already has identified many solutions.

A personal farewell

On a more personal level, I want to say that it’s been a privilege to work with TLAP for these last few years. There’s nothing quite like it. I got to walk side by side with so many incredible people who lead with their heart and soul and are driven to do what they do to ensure all of us get to have a life not a service. This includes the TLAP Chair, Clenton Farquharson who has surely been cloned, several times over, given his omnipresence!  I have had the privilege of learning from my colleagues in NCAG who share stories of the constant battles they fight to simply get on with living their life or to support their child to have a life.  Sharing their stories so that those of who can make a difference, make that difference. And finally, it has been my great privilege to have worked with an amazing team, people who are utterly committed to and passionate about creating a better future for social care.  

Happy tenth birthday TLAP. Keep on making it real.


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