Tag Archives: social care

Gwesty Seren: Effective asset transfer and a new way of providing respite care

As we live in challenging economic times, it’s likely that a lot of voluntary organisations and Town and Community Councils will have community assets transferred to them. Dyfrig Williams visited Gwesty Seren to hear the lessons learnt from their community asset transfer and how they deliver respite care.

We are often signposted to examples of good practice, but it’s not so often that we hear about a project with good practice to share for a few different reasons.

We went to Gwesty Seren, a hotel based in Gwynedd that offers supported holidays, to learn about how it’s been transferred successfully to the community. But I also had a broader interest in how they’re providing respite care in a very different way.

The charity’s work

Picture of Gwesty Seren

Gwesty Seren

Seren is a charity that is based in Blaenau Ffestiniog, which provides care for people with learning difficulties. The charity was founded 20 years ago under Care in the Community, with the aim of supporting people to move out of institutions and into the community. People create craft and art, which is then sold in the shop and market garden. This helped people to be independent so that they didn’t rely on fees from Gwynedd Council or private individuals, and it also gives them a chance to get a taste of work. This mentality has continued at Gwesty Seren, where they provide work experience.

Gwesty Seren decided to go further than standard respite care. They wanted to provide a different kind of care, so they created a 3 star hotel with a focus on supporting disabled people. The toilets and rooms have been developed so that they are accessible to everyone.

The hotel also allows families to stay there. Their research showed that a lot of families have received poor respite care in the past, so they weren’t happy to leave their children’s care entirely in the hands of someone they didn’t know. The hotel allows them to stay with their children if they want, but whilst also giving them the break they need. This unique service means that the hotel also provides spaces for people who receive services from nearby councils, like Conwy and Ceredigion, with families even travelling to stay from across the border in England.

The success of the hotel has led to it working with three companies that specialise in holidays for people with learning difficulties, and recently, two further companies that specialise in holidays for physically disabled people began using the facilities. The people who have stayed there often end up coming back and making a block booking.

A photograph of a room at Gwesty Seren

A room at Gwesty Seren

The history of the building

The building itself was originally built by Lord Newborough in 1728 as a summer house. It stayed like this until just after the First World War, when the family took in soldiers who had had an accident or shock in the war to have a break or respite.

In the 1930s the building was given to two Franciscan Monks. They invited homeless people to stay, with the youngest monk travelling to London to invite people to stay at Bryn Llywelyn, as it was called at the time. Then the building was sold to Meirionnydd Council as a residential house for children, before being turned into an old people’s home. In 2010 the Council decided to close it.

Seren made a bid for the building to the Welsh Government and the Big Lottery Fund’s Community Asset Transfer Fund. A full application was submitted, before the work began in 2013. The work was completed in April 2014.

Transferring the building

Usually the transfer of assets from the public sector take place free of charge, but in this case, the council decided to sell the building at less than the market price. The council had to go through committees and raise awareness through the media, so it was not a quick process.

The cost of everything, including the purchase, was around £1,000,000, and applying for grants was a laborious process. Because it required a significant amount, the charity went on to borrow from the Charity Bank.

They were aware that questions would be asked about State Aid, so the charity hired a Cardiff law firm that specialised in it. A report was written on minimising the risk and the document showed the rationale for why it did not break the rules. It was a great help when working with European Officers and the Welsh European Funding Office.

Key messages

So one of the main message from Gwesty Seren is that asset transfer isn’t a quick process. But it’s clear by looking at the comments on their TripAdvisor page that the hard work has been worth it. And from the testimonials of other customers (whether it’s directly to the hotel or in a newsletter), I can see that their respite care that has a big impact on people’s lives, has helped the regeneration of  Blaenau Ffestiniog by creating 10 full time jobs and is actively contributing to the area’s tourist industry.

A special Wales edition of the Journal of Integrated care – so what?!!!

How can we better integrate health and social care? Stewart Greenwell of ADSS (Association of Directors of Social Services) Cymru shares the lessons from the Wales edition of the Journal of Integrated care.

Stewart GreenwellI guess that writing about what you do is common practice in most professional arena, but normally it is for a very limited audience – the employer, sometimes even service users so that they can see what a professional worker is explaining what they saw, what they did and what they intend to do. Writing for an academic journal is a different piece of work – the audience is wider, the rules feel more complex and the writing comes under more scrutiny.

I have always experienced writing as a way of reflecting on what I have done and the special edition of the Journal of Integrated Care focusing specifically on Wales, hopefully will bring some of our efforts in Wales into a wider public arena, from which others, but particularly policy makers and practitioners in Wales, can benefit.

I have always experienced collaboration and/or integration as the natural way of building alliances to ensure that people are not ‘given the run-around’. Sadly my experience is that the public sector has provided that experience for ordinary people, leaving them with the energy-sapping task of finding their way around systems, places and people to try to find a response to a set of circumstances that is troubling them. So by simply reducing the number of doors to knock, telephone numbers to ring and people to talk to, the path becomes less hazardous, less tiring and more likely to lead to success for the ordinary person.

That becomes the rationale for collaboration and integration – to improve people’s lives and only that end makes it worthwhile.

The people who have contributed to the Wales edition had very little experience of writing for the purposes of publication. They had all written for their own agencies, arguing for a change in practice, arguing for an allocation of some additional resources and the many other reasons that we have to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) for our employers.

It has been a struggle, everything took longer than anticipated and there was always another reference to call on. In many ways it reflects the struggle that is captured by many of the authors, to hold on to a belief that what they were pursuing was worth all the effort, to resist the feeling that ‘I don’t really have anything to say that people want to listen to’.

Their efforts, actually our efforts, since it started with us all talking about the idea in a room in a church centre in Shrewsbury – a good start since it reminded us that you sometimes have to break the rules to achieve something – (in this instance choosing to meet outside of Wales!!) were worth it.

The articles highlight the theme of the WAO events on 14th and 22nd October, that integration and collaboration are less about science and more about craft and graft, continually pushing at the boundaries of traditional thinking and reminding ourselves that there is never a reason not to ‘do the right thing’, but there are often many reasons to simply continue to ‘do things right’. The former is about people and the latter often about little more than adhering to process.

However the process was energising and in the end, successful. It shows the character and
strength of the best practice, the importance of leadership that is unrelentingly determined and the most critical of all, that a focus on what makes a difference to people’s lives pulls you through and beyond the doubters and the resistors!!

How can you improve Social Care Workforce Planning?

In 2011/12 Estyn and CSSIW inspections identified the need for Pembrokeshire County Council to address problems in the retention and recruitment of social workers. Below, Anne Nicholson tells us how they’ve gone about doing just that.

Pembrokeshire County Council / Cyngor Sir PenfroWe undertook a significant piece of research on recruitment and retention, workloads and support for social workers. We discovered from that research that we have a high number of social workers who appreciate living and working in Pembrokeshire and who want to continue to work for the Authority. This is of course a strength, however they reported that the benefits of living and working in the county did not counter the argument for the “going rate for the job” and the need for manageable caseloads. We had a high number of experienced practitioners with appropriate skills who were committed to working with children, young people and their families.

The safeguarding Overview and Scrutiny committee identified the recruitment and retention of social workers as a priority for Pembrokeshire made it a standing item on their agenda, receiving regular reports on progress with this work.

The Social Care Workforce planning project was selected as one of Pembrokeshire’s Outcome Agreements for 2013-2016. As well as being a priority for Pembrokeshire County Council, it demonstrated a clear link to the Wales Programme for Government’s Strategic Theme of Tackling Poverty. We believed that by providing an effective professional social care service with a sufficiently qualified and trained social care workforce, the outcomes for children, young people and families living in poverty would be improved. We set out to achieve this through:

  • The development of a model for the recruitment and retention of social workers
  • The development of effective mechanisms for referral to the Flying Start project for children & families to receive specialist support.

Together, the pay and grading review and the development of technologies to aid recruitment have proved successful in leading to improvements in this area. The market supplement and results of the Pay and Grading Review produced an increase in the ranking of starting and top of scale salaries in Pembrokeshire and have positioned Pembrokeshire more competitively. The number of vacant social worker posts reduced by 88%; the number of required agency staff reduced by 60% and the overall turnover rate has reduced.

We have reduced costs by moving away from the more traditional, and often more expensive, methods of advertising (which is part of our overall Social Work recruitment strategy) and successfully recruited candidates via new methods of advertising e.g. via YouTube, Google, Facebook and LinkedIn.

We now have a robust procedure for the employment of agency workers and there must be a vacancy in a team before they are employed.

Let’s just stop giving people the run-around

49. Stewart PhotoGuest blog post from Stewart Greenwell, ADSS Cymru

So why so much attention on integrating services, particularly health and social services? Well it makes sense if the public sector is to move away from, sadly, what it has been very good at, for as long as I can remember and as long as I have been a part of it – so this is not written by a paragon of virtue!!

It is ‘giving people the run-around’

Ask anyone who is a regular user of both health and social services and they will be able to describe circumstances when they have been passed back and forth between agencies and professionals, often left to sort out the distinction between different agencies’ processes and their differing responsibilities, without help and support.

When to go to the council, when to the NHS, when to a voluntary organisation? And what are the consequences if you get it wrong? At best it can mean a delay and at worst, not having access to the right information and advice to help find a solution or response to what is troubling you.

So that is the reason that integration and collaboration between agencies is so important. It makes it easier for people to negotiate their way around the system, or usually the SYSTEMS. Seldom will it feel like one system.

‘Strengthening the Connections’ is trying to bridge the gap that people experience between NHS and local government, whilst recognising that there are also many other agencies  involved in offering support to people when they need help, so there need to be easy links between and good relationships across all agencies. People do not live their lives in the boundaries of agencies’ responsibilities, so professional workers and agencies should be making it easy for someone to negotiate their way to gain support, not leave people stranded in what often feels like a very complicated system. Association of Directors of Social Services Cymru and Welsh NHS confederation are working together on this project to make this happen, showing that it is possible to overcome differences, if we focus on our common aim, to improve the services available for people and their experiences of those services.

Welsh Government paid for this project as part of supporting the implementation of a very important piece of legislation currently making its way through National Assembly of Wales committees, the Social Services and Well-Being (Wales) Bill. The Bill makes an absolute priority of improving people’s lives, giving people control over their lives and removing unnecessary and unhelpful barriers for people to receive decent services

There are some important and common messages emerging from our work that will lead to real improvements:

Listen to what people tell you about what works and what doesn’t – do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

Develop an understanding of the business of other agencies – this will stop you simply passing the buck to others and invite you to help people negotiate their way towards a decent service.

If you are doing something on your own, you are probably doing it wrong – as a front-line worker, look out for the other workers who are involved in the person’s life and make contact with them; as a manager, meet and talk with managers from other agencies and explore what you can do together – discover the joy of sharing responsibility!

Be prepared to let go of being in control of what happens – other people may have something helpful to offer and it is often the person who needs support, when given a voice, who can provide the clue to what will make a difference to their life

Strengthening the Connections means just that: we have to find ways to bring services together so that we build what we have to offer around people lives, rather than expecting people to fit into the boundaries that we have artificially created around professional behaviour and agency responsibilities.

However it is not easy, as we have to let go of how we have done things in the past and we have to allow others to influence what we do, but…..

Doing it differently is also much more fun, more challenging and calls on more creativity, as we find ways to move forward together and with the public that we serve. 

Strengthening our Connections #integration14

The Good Practice Team has found some new partners to help share knowledge and good practice in integrated health and social care. Over the coming months, we will be working with the Association of Directors for Social Services Cymru, Welsh NHS Confederation and the Welsh Institute for Health and Social Care. We’ll be sharing some of the fascinating ideas and good practice coming out of their Strengthening the Connections project, which is looking at collaboration and integration between local government and NHS Wales.

So, how did this come about? We, the Good Practice Team, chatted with colleagues about the key themes we should concentrate on this year. Health and social care integration flashed up immediately as an area where sharing some good practice and ways of working could be beneficial. So, we started planning some seminars. You can imagine how happy we were to discover ADSS Cymru, Welsh NHS Confederation and WIHSC’s Strengthening the Connections Project. As part of this project, they were even planning a series of demonstration events across Wales to showcase some case studies and interesting ideas. The obvious answer? To merge our events and work together to share good practice and knowledge about integrated health and social care.

And why do we think this approach is beneficial? Well, it’s an integrated approach in itself. We get to combine the Good Practice Team’s experience in sharing knowledge and good practice with our partners’ expertise in health and social care. We get to include the interesting case studies we found in larger demonstration events and make sure they reach the right audience. This includes some excellent examples of data sharing from Cheshire and integrated care in care homes from Sheffield. We also get to help share the valuable work that our partners are doing this year. But most importantly, working together helps coordinate the effort to provide integrated care, truly focused on individual needs. The King’s Fund has produced a great video bringing integrated care to life and showing what it really means to patients.

Now we have some plans about how we can help our partners share the ideas, knowledge and good practice that develop out of their work. Over the next month, you’ll see some guest blogs on here from our partners and others to share knowledge in the field of health and social care integration. We’ll be sharing links to interesting articles, ideas and resources on integrated care on Twitter – it’ll be great to hear from any of you who know of some good work going on in this area. And of course, we’ll be tweeting and blogging around the series of demonstration events planned for April, letting you get involved in the conversation, share your own ideas and see the outputs from the events.