Barnet: moving from 'superhero' mode to asset-based thinking

Featured article - 18 July 2017
Mathew Kendall, Adults and Communities Director, London Borough of Barnet

Head-shot of the author, Mathew Kendall, Adults and Communities Director, London Borough of Barnet

The biggest challenge we witnessed here at London Borough of Barnet was a sense that our workforce believed that they were superheroes. Their mindset was to put their pants over their trousers and dash out into the community resolving all issues and risks presented to them in order to make the adult 'safe'.The solution would often come before understanding the problem and this was often at the cost of hearing the adult’s voice.

It’s different now though and practice is shifting

Through strengths-based conversation and pushing the boundaries of ‘normal practice, our practitioners are embracing the adult as their own expert. They are working with them to develop their own solutions with a focus on enhancing their independence, resilience and ability to make choices. Supporting the person’s strengths can help address needs (whether or not they are eligible) for support in a way that allows the person to lead, and be in control of, an ordinary and independent day and to day life as much as possible. It may also help delay the development of further social care requirements down in the future.

To get to this point Adults Social Care in Barnet embarked on a campaign to create a collective understanding of what strengths based practice meant to everyone – from frontline teams to support workers and providers. This resulted in a developed and shared understanding which could be shared with wider public and colleagues in other agencies. Delivery was then enhanced through an intensive internal program of engagement that was co-produced with staff and continually updated and developed to reflect the learning achieved.

Senior Managers helped to develop and seek feedback from staff around the programme. Giving permissions to workers to embrace this new way of working showed an investment in staff, making it possible for practitioners to nurture, enhance, learn and develop the skills necessary to achieve the principles which were as follows:

  • Goal Orientation: increase the extent to which people themselves set the goals that they would like to achieve in their lives
  • Strengths Assessment: support individuals to recognise the resources at their disposal which they can use to counteract any difficulty or condition and achieve their goals
  • Resources from the Environment: enable links to individuals, associations, groups and institutions in the environment who have something to give in alignment with an individual’s goal attainment
  • Hope-inducing: increase the hopefulness of the client, realised through strengthened relationships with people, communities and culture
  • Meaningful Choice: actively demonstrate that people are the experts in their own lives and play a role in increasing and explaining choices whilst encouraging people to make their own decisions and informed choices.

This intensive investment of time and resources has led to a place where practitioner satisfaction now comes from seeing and promoting the skills, abilities, knowledge and resources of the person with care and support needs and their carers. Using an assessment as a meaningful intervention that if required, enables people to put together their own bespoke packages of care, alongside opening up community opportunities to many who had not considered this before.

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