Celebrate Opinion

A national voice for social care, Maxine Espley MBE, Executive Director Care and Support, GreenSquareAccord

Maxine Espley, Executive Director Care & Support, GreenSquareAccord

Maxine Espley MBE, Executive Director of Care and Support at GreenSquareAccord reflects on what leadership means in social care as a Top 10 finalist in the Social Care Top 30.

Last year I was delighted to be a finalist in the Social Care Top 30, a proud moment to be recognised amongst this incredible group. Congratulations to all the finalists and especially to Clenton Farquharson MBE, a truly worthy recipient of the number one spot.

As Social Care leaders we have spent most of the past two years looking inwards, leading our organisations through the pandemic. Like many others, my absolute focus has been on keeping our colleagues and customers as safe as possible. Leading our teams through such unprecedented times has taken its toll and of course it’s not over yet. We are now leading significant operational challenges – recruitment and retention, growing demand and needs and an increasingly complex financial landscape.

Despite the internal priorities, I believe this is a critical time for us to further demonstrate the value of social care leadership to the wider system. To achieve this we need to spend more time looking outwards and engaging in the current reforms, especially the Integrated Care System. At the very heart of the ICS is the integration of health and social care to create partnerships to reduce health inequalities and improve wellbeing. The ICS will make decisions that will have a significant impact on our customers, services and communities. Despite this there is a gap in the contribution of social care and disappointingly no statutory role for social care providers in any level of the ICS governance structures.

As an illustration of why our engagement matters, the President of the Association of Directors of Public Health has said “80% of healthcare outcomes are not shaped by healthcare itself”. We know that the biggest impact on outcomes comes from people’s homes, communities and social networks. The answer to reducing health inequalities will therefore be in the creation of solutions that help keep people well. This intuitively cannot come from healthcare alone and social care providers have much to offer in helping to achieve this outcome.

As someone who has for many years operated at a senior level in both health and social care organisations, I strongly feel this is the time for parity in the value of leadership across the whole sector. Social care leaders bring a unique perspective and one that if recognised and harnessed will add significant contribution to tackling health inequalities and improving wellbeing.

I know many of us are already engaging with our ICS leaders. If you haven’t done so already, I would encourage you to learn more and make contact. As social care leaders we have huge expertise in building partnerships and creating the right environment for collaboration. I am working with my team to identify how we strengthen and adapt these skills to maximise our engagement and contribution.

We all need to deploy our time to maximum effect so I have personally found involvement in networks to be helpful as well as being a positive way in which we can have a collective voice. I am a Board member of the National Care Forum and like other membership bodies they are striving to increase the contribution of social care in every level of the ICS, as well as supporting members with information and practical tools.

Whatever works for you and your organisation – we collectively need to ensure that the value of social care leaders as active members of the integrated care systems is recognised and strengthened. This will help make a huge leap in increasing the voice and contribution of the social care sector in this important area of reform and as a result deliver better and sustained outcomes.

Edel Harris

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