Let's work together to shape our future!

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TLAP Chair Clenton Farquharson MBE urges commissioners to think about the post-pandemic landscape.  He offers advice for how they can commission a diverse market that caters to people's need for choice, control and the chance to live in the community rather than in institutional settings.

I am writing this in the middle of a pandemic. I have to self-isolate, and I’m working through one video call after another. I salute and thank those of you working selflessly on the front line to keep others safe.

This is a time when things are changing fast. Long-established rules and processes are being revised daily. I hope we can take the chance to work together and shape a fair and just future that celebrates diversity and choice. Let’s take this opportunity to think about what matters to us, and what we value.  

I believe that in recent years we have concentrated on doing things efficiently, without asking if they are "the right things". We’ve talked about the price of social care. We have not asked about the value of social care - although the importance and value of the work you all do is now clear in this current crisis.

I believe the Care Act can help us think more deeply about the value of social care as we move into a post-pandemic commissioning landscape. It promotes the following commissioning principles:

* outcomes and wellbeing

* quality, reliable services

* choice

* coproduction — a jargon word which I describe as, "sharing challenges and working together".

The Care Act also talks about "market shaping" - another jargon word that puts my teeth on edge. Basically, it means that first we should know what people want and need from services, and second, we should make sure that there is a range of high-quality services and providers to help people choose their personalised care and support so they can live better lives.

TLAP’s directory of innovations in community-centred support has great examples that look at how we can create services that think in new ways, work with local communities, and put people first. Three of my favourite examples of innovative approaches to living better lives are the Coventry Pod, Helen Sanderson’s radically different take on well-being teams, and the Sussex-based Gig Buddies, which is one of the projects run by Stay Up Late. Please check them out. They show that market shaping can be about both value and price.

Traditionally, market shaping is seen as the role of local authority commissioners. They have a challenging, demanding, and vital role, which I could never do. At Think Local Act Personal (TLAP), we would like to invite commissioners to have many different conversations with people with lived experience on how market shaping can create value for us all. This should become routine and commonplace practice. Market shaping is not something that commissioners can do in isolation. Remember coproduction?  People who use services, front line key workers, managers, owners: everyone must get involved.

Our TLAP "Making it Real" (MIR) initiative is designed to kickstart these conversations. It's our framework to support good personalised care and support. You will find many stories on the web site showing how MIR helps local people work together to give choice that is so important to us all.

I think these five ideas might help commissioners share the challenge and think about what can be done differently:

1: Your role is critical - don’t ignore it.

2: Accept there’s a problem - stop denying it.

3: Make your presence felt - don’t be invisible.  

4: Acknowledge that blind spots impact on decisions made - don’t believe you are somehow exempt.

5: Make your actions match your words.

Let's not slip back into old familiar ways. Let's seize this opportunity to make something better of these dark times. Together, we can make a difference. We can shape the future.

Clenton Farquharson MBE, Chair of Think Local Act Personal.

This article first appeared in Care Talk June edition. https://www.caretalk.co.uk/latest-issue