Let’s Talk: Trafford Adult Social Care’s Strengths-Based Approach
Briefly describe the initiative/ project/service; please include your aims and objectives
In January 2017, Trafford Council commenced piloting an innovative new approach in Adult Social Care known as Let’s Talk to help support the aims of the Care Act 2014 in terms of preventative services and community support. Let’s Talk is an strengths-based, person-centred approach that puts staff in the driving seat and has required us to make big changes to our existing practices and tested our cultural norms and behaviours. Let’s Talk supports people to become more independent, more resilient and as a result their health and wellbeing can improve.
This promotes more creative, person-centred, sustainable solutions which in turn lead to reduced reliance on funded support; as well as an improved, more satisfying experience for residents as the approach offers the ‘freedom’ to spend time, get to know and truly understand a person, to get to the root cause of an issue or problem and to think differently in terms of a solution. This ‘new way’ of working aligns Trafford’s place-based model and wider public sector reform, and is now operating across all four neighbourhood social work teams, in addition to our Carers Centre and a reablement discharge from hospital facility.
What are the key achievements?
Let’s Talk has proven results. The positive impact is threefold; for residents, for staff and for the Council. The benefits of this new way of working have been proven through quantitative results in a Cost Benefit Analysis. In this, tangible results can be seen. The ‘old world’ deficit approach focused on problems and deficiencies; designing services to fill gaps and fix the problems. As a result, people could feel disempowered and dependent; becoming passive recipients of services rather than active agents in their own and their families’ lives.
Now, under the introduction of the Let’s Talk approach, any person coming through the front door of Adult Social Care receives support that focuses on their own strengths, builds personal independence and resilience, and utilises existing assets, networks and support. This represents a move away from ‘assessment for service’ as the approach advocates dynamic conversations that facilitate different responses according to the circumstances at the time. Over the last two years, we have seen a decrease in the amount of new funded care, a reduction in the average cost of a care, an increase in job satisfaction for staff, and a strengthening of our links with the local community and VCSE.
What are the key learning points?
While the introduction of Let’s Talk has been a success, there is much learning to be shared. One of the most imperative things to obtain was trust and autonomy from senior management to change service delivery in big ways. Giving our staff back responsibility and allowing them to self-allocate, self-authorise and own corporate credit cards for immediate emergency spend was understandably a challenging (and frightening!) prospect for our senior management, and working to obtain their trust was key. We did this through a phase of small pilot sites to build an evidence base, while keeping the social care teams thoughts and ideas well connected with senior management throughout.
We also faced challenges when integrating our proportionate and Care Act 2014 compliant assessments into our assessment pathway. We are the first local authority to do this. We learnt that to protect our staff and explain our innovative approach to assessment, we had to have a document that explains the approaches Care Act 2014 compliance, leading to us creating a bespoke legal guidance document for use.
Let’s Talk is fully integrated into Trafford’s Adult Social Care assessment pathway, with the strengths-based conversations taking place with our residents counting as proportionate assessments towards our SALT return – the first Local Authority nationally to integrate strengths-based working to this depth of practice and culture. We have introduced additional assessment forms that enable proportionate assessment under the Care Act 2014, as well as new processes such as self-allocation of cases, duty worker role and self-authorisation, putting responsibility and autonomy back in the hands of our social care staff and empowering them to spend more quality time with people.