Carmen and the Care Act

By SCIE’s Carmen Colomina, Practice Development Manager. Carmen is a SCIE Care Act consultant and trainer.

Featured article – 3 July 2015

Image of Carmen

Over the last six years my professional career has taken a bit of a turn.

I am a social worker, by profession, and feel very proud of it. Working with people to enable them to get to a better place, whether as individuals or as a community, is amazingly motivating for me - and it is a vital part of me, in both my personal and professional life.

Six years ago I started working as a project manager, focusing on implementing change. I am frequently asked: “Don't you miss social work?” My answer is: “Well, I do still do social work!” This is because I use all the skills that are so important as a social worker. In actual fact, for some of the years as a care manager, I didn't really get a chance to use a lot of those skills.

I used to find myself increasingly constrained by forms, complex and alienating sign-off processes, tick-box exercises. I found myself spending less and less time on providing real interventions or using open questions and active listening. That way of doing things is best referred to as the strengths-based approach, which SCIE has done work on recently. With the arrival of the Care Act 2014 there is a chance to get back into supporting real, transformative, social work and social care.  

So, as a change manager, my ‘clients’ are social care practitioners (or occupational therapists). If they are offered better training, great support and improved processes, their life at work will improve and that will improve the life of those in the community. Does that not sound like social work?

And now the Care Act has also given us the perfect platform to bring social work back, as a very valued and needed – though, at times difficult - profession. It’s the perfect chance to differentiate the role of ‘care management’ from the profession of social care. The Care Act is enshrined in law so that beyond recommending good practice or endorsing our code of conduct, it now actually requires practitioners to put in practice what social care, as a profession, is all about.

This is not anymore a 'tick the box and patch the gap' role. Assessment, for instance, is now not just a process, not just a form; it must constitute a valued intervention. In order to do this we have to have meaningful and open conversations with people, maximising their involvement and that of their carers. We must get a holistic picture of the person’s circumstances. All areas of wellbeing must be explored and linked to personal outcomes. We must build on from people’s strengths and network/community resources, whilst acknowledging their needs and weaknesses.

We have to use our skills to work with and help people to articulate their current circumstances and their desired personal outcomes. We have to have open and meaningful conversations with people. We have to know the law – that is, knowing our criteria and boundaries - and apply these conscientiously with our professional judgement. This should be based on professional knowledge and experience, not based purely on personal opinions.

The Care Act is great but there are still more boundaries to push and more battles to fight; and we have to ensure that the care and support system is sustainable financially and professionally. We need to know that social workers and other social care professionals are respected professionals whose role is not defined and constrained by bureaucracy, measures, lack of resources or lack of money.

Constraints will always be there, but now the aim is to ensure that they do not drive or define this amazing and much-needed profession. Let's make the most of this opportunity, using what the Care Act provides as a foundation, and ensuring we apply and embed the cultural changes.

Links

SCIE’s Care Act resources  

SCIE’s strengths-based approaches work

SCIE’s Care Act training and support