Posts Tagged ‘conference’

Uncertain Times – a local conference on the future for Supporting People in Norfolk

May 13, 2010

Uncertain Times – a local conference on the future for Supporting People in Norfolk

We recently attended a conference organised by Norfolk Supporting People Team. The aims of the day were to:
-Increase our understanding of the changing environment in which housing support is provided in Norfolk
-Debate and share views with other providers and stakeholders about the key challenges and hot topics faced
by the Supporting People partnership
-Contribute to the work plan for the Supporting People Provider Elected Panel over the next year
-Influence priorities for Supporting People in Norfolk.

The initial presentation looked at what is on the horizon for housing support in Norfolk. There have been a lot of changes in Norfolk this year. Adult social services has recently been reorganised along with other county council departments to become part of Community Services. Also Norfolk and Suffolk Probation services have been combined into a single trust. In other areas of the country the Supporting People Team has been moved to other agencies, for example in some areas it is part of the Primary Care Trust. Both locally and nationally Supporting People is seen as a success. Nationally there have been £3.46 billion of savings due to Supporting People at a cost of £1.6 billion. Local work on estimating the financial benefits of the
programme indicates that there have been £24 million savings at a cost of £16.4 million.

Personal budgets are being introduced in social care and Supporting People has a part to play in this. Personal budgets will be linking users of services to a wide range of organisations, as part of the expansion of choice. Norfolk was a pilot area for what was then called individual budgets. During the pilot many people were looking to have their own tenancy, ‘their own front door’. The challenge for Supporting People is ensuring that they are able to access housing and keep ‘their own front door’.

There are opportunities as a result of the introduction of personalisation but also new challenges. In the pilot areas, older people as a group struggled the most with the practicalities of individual budgets, and found the new system ‘bewildering’. There are opportunities for new agencies to help older people, and other groups, to get the best from the new system. This does mean that there have to be realistic choices for them to choose between. The personalisation agenda also acknowledges that service users not only have the right to choose but they also have the right to make the wrong choice, to make mistakes and to take risks. Supporting People providers are working to help people make informed choices. How do the ‘professionals’ feel about this?

For a while people attending the conference kept saying that there was uncertainty. There were two reasons for this. Firstly, the general election was one week away. Secondly, it was a way of not actually saying that there are likely to be cuts in various services. Some people voiced fears about the security of their own job. Eventually it was said, there is no uncertainty. No matter who forms the next government there will be a reduction in the amount of money available. It was therefore a timely conference to start the thinking about who might receive a reduced service. A reduction of 20% to 30% in the size of the budget was discussed. People were challenged to think about which service would you cut or how far would you raise the threshold levels, because these are the decisions that many people think are going to have to be made by someone in the near future. With a decrease in money there are decisions to be made on the priorities for the future, whilst not forgetting that there are ‘hard to reach groups’ that need services and should not be forgotten. Will a reduction in the budget create an increase in the quality of the services provided to the individual? The conference thought that this was doubtful. What could the fallout be and what might the tabloid press say? Somewhere a tabloid headline could read “Young drug addict gets services at the expense of keeping granny in her home”.

There are other certain changes. The population of Norfolk is older than the national average and this will continue for the foreseeable future. The majority of Supporting People funding goes to older people, so this is an important issue. Will more services change to being a ‘charged for’ service? Could the third sector, the voluntary sector and not for profit organisations fill the gaps? Are you thinking that this is an area where you could provide a service as a social enterprise?

There are calls to get rid of so called ‘silo thinking’. An alternate view is to change who has the ‘silo thinking’. There seem to be problems if professionals think only in the way that their profession thinks. The alternate view is to let the individual / the carer or the user of services be ‘the silo’ and the professionals work to the individual’s personalised budget requirements.

All in all, the conference provided a useful opportunity for people working with a variety of client groups to get together to discuss and debate common issues related to housing support.