Adult Social Care: Sharing Good Practice

In this blog Janaya Alcock, a Social Care Worker for the Adult Social Care Services, shares her best practice for working in Adult Social Care.

In July 2019 a Community Partnership Worker role was created in Birmingham. This saw Adult Social Care (ASC) being placed in a partnership role with the Rough Sleepers Initiative as part of a government led drive to significantly reduce incidents of street homelessness. This role is a natural progression of the new ‘Community’ social care model, based on the assets, strengths and capabilities of people, families and communities.

Since last year there has been a 53% increase nationally in street homelessness and a 588% increase since 2012. There are multiple reasons why an individual may find themselves in a position of street homelessness including relationship breakdowns, domestic abuse, family breakdown, eviction from private rented properties, mental health needs, substance misuse, and offending. For those individuals who have been rough sleeping for a significant period of time, they are often experiencing more than one of the above issues, referred to as multiple and complex needs. There has been a noticeable gap in service provision for this client group for a long time and the Rough Sleepers Initiative was designed to address this, with the aim of creating a diverse community team who can input into a bespoke support plan for each client who is rough sleeping. Previously there was a predominance of silo working in services working with the street community, each service attempting to address one issue contributing to the complexity of a persons needs, without cohesive partnership working. Looking back, it appears clear why this approach was ineffective. Too often we relied on pockets of good practice rather than relying on good practice as the norm.

Janaya Alcock is the (social care worker/ social care professional) in Birmingham who has taken on the task of bridging the gap between Adult Social Care and the rough sleeping community. From the outside looking in, this is not an enviable task as demand for her intervention and guidance is high. I myself am in contact with Janaya on a regular basis, running ideas and concerns past her about some of Birmingham’s most vulnerable citizens. Janaya has been open about her own personal experiences which make her a perfect fit for the Community Partnership Worker role. Growing up, Janaya became aware of mental health needs and the impact by witnessing her own family members journey to mental health recovery. This insight has undoubtably contributed to the compassionate and empathic viewpoint that she has towards our rough sleeping community, of which an estimated 42% are experiencing both mental health needs and substance misuse (statistics provided by the Mental Health Foundation). I have witnessed a significant increase in Adult Social Care intervention within the rough sleeping community as a result of Janaya’s work, where ordinarily a case may not have been opened as a client was difficult to locate due to their transient nature or was considered to be resistant to services. Intervention has been provided in cases of domestic abuse, serious mental health concerns, unsafe discharges from hospital, and where clients have physical disabilities which are unmanageable when sleeping on the streets. I can’t understate the importance of this development when previously these needs were often considered ‘part and parcel’ of the rough sleeping experience and were therefore, in some cases, tolerated to a concerning degree by services.

Janaya has listed the impact of her role so far as follows:

  • An ASC projection on the homeless cohort, maintaining a direct citizen focus in line with the government Rough Sleepers Strategy.
  • ASC statutory presence in the community team around homelessness. This effective merge of Adult Social Care means that when ‘tasking’ on individuals, real time intel can be offered on a ‘need to know’ basis to directly assist the engagement and support around the citizen.
  • Opportunity for upstream preventative work due to case tasking and option for early presentation to the service.
  • Seamless linking of partners who are operating around the person. E.g. The Social Worker to the Outreach Worker to gain access to the citizen.
  • Improving the flexibility and accessibility of the ASC homeless pathway.
  • Active multi-disciplinary and partnership working as per the Customer Journey.
  • Immediate responses to social care queries on urgent rough sleeping cases as opposed to going through the front door – avoiding delays and handovers.
  • Involvement in a collective action, ‘Community Development’ model for the homeless cohort – creating opportunities for coworking with citizens and other groups, such as faith communities.
  • Underpinning the strengths and assets-based approach focused on citizen empowerment.
  • Actively breaking down silos by communicating a unifying vision with partners – merging information and resources where necessary.
  • Working creatively has effectively widened participation and maximized engagement for ASC with homeless citizens, partners and the broader community.

This is a comprehensive list of achievements when the model is still considered to be in its infancy, but it truly reflects the power of a multi-disciplinary approach to complex needs and rough sleeping. The addition of Adult Social Care to the Rough Sleepers Initiative was the final piece of the puzzle, completing the holistic, wrap-a-round support model we aspire to. Janaya’s work is shining a light on the rough sleeping community and their needs at a time when services can still remember the struggle to access support for what seemed like a ‘forgotten’ group.

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