Reflections on Leadership and Innovation from the National Care Forum Annual Conference 2016
By Vic Rayner, Executive Director At The National Care Forum
No one was disputing the challenges facing the adult social care sector in 2016. In a room full of 150 of the sector leaders and experts, there was a sense of reflection on the problems individual services experienced, but also a common understanding that the way forward was dependent on everyone there grasping the nettle of leadership and embracing innovation.
Coming new to the sector, I found that there were clear opportunities for leadership and these were met by a willingness to look forward, and to understand the new agenda facing the sector. A number of strong themes emerged from both speakers and delegates.
The first of these was about the role that technology has to play in the shaping of services of the future. This discussion was not reserved to the ‘usual suspects’, by which I mean the ways in which new technology could impact on the services offered – including telehealth and the role of technology in the built environment.
In addition to these, I was impressed to hear how technology was being used in developing greater understanding of staff support and training requirements, and in the establishment and sharing of care plans. Enhancing communication was another key element of technological innovation, with particular regard for working with those who may have limited ability to verbalise and the ways in which new apps are being utilised to both support a personalised approach to service delivery and to provide ongoing reinforcement for speech and language interventions.
The second core theme was around the public perception of adult social care. There was a strong sense that whilst there had been huge shifts in the needs of people using services, the types of services on offer and the extent of personalisation, the public still held, at best, an outdated view of the sector – or potentially worse still, no view of the sector at all. Leaders in the room recognised that this had to change. Whilst adult social care remains a decision taken only at the point of crisis, whether for older people entering residential care, or young adults with disabilities requiring changes in support, we will continue to have a dialogue with the public that puts our services in the category of ‘last resort’. We can and should aim to shift this discourse.
Third sector provision has a lot to tell the general public about the way it works, the values that underpin it’s provision and the core strengths of its residents and workforce.
It is a great story to tell, and one that I shall feel very privileged to promote in my new role as Executive Director of the National Care Forum.
However, all of the leadership and innovation will have little bearing if we do not keep at the heart of our work the voices of people who use services. It was fantastic to hear from two strong sessions within the conference which relayed the voices of those who use services. I was particularly taken by a poem read by Susanna Howard from Living Words, which is a project aimed at capturing the words and poems of people experiencing dementia, and she has given me kind permission to include this poem with this article.
The Things Between Us*
These are the things between us:
We all day sit
Time on our hands
People have condition
People inclined to leave them alone
These are the things between us:
Open hearts, Open the door
The door of friendship
Life and everything
This for me provides the real litmus test and I will be asking all those involved with NCF this key question. Does our future focus on leadership and innovation address the things between us?