Glass half full: Using the strengths-based approach with the Care Act 2014

04 March 2015

Why Joshua’s days in the Merchant Navy are important

New guide and film from SCIE

The Care Act’s aim is to promote people’s wellbeing and independence. The act says that it’s important to “look at the person’s life, considering their needs and agreed outcomes in the context of their skills, ambitions and priorities.” This is called taking a strengths-based approach. It’s important because from 1st April this becomes the law.

A new guide and accompanying film from the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) show how using a strengths-based approach in assessment should put people at the centre of understanding their own needs. Taking a strength-based approach means looking at what people can do with their own skills and resources, and what the people around them can do to support them, so that they can be active in their communities.

SCIE’s Chief Executive, Tony Hunter, says:

The film describes the approach as ‘glass half full’; it’s a fundamental shift of focus in care and support, from concentrating on what people can’t do, to looking at people’s skills, abilities and experiences - and what they can do. Assessments have, for too long, looked at people’s needs, based on things like ill-health and disability. But now it’s time to invest in people to help prevent, reduce and delay their needs getting bigger. In a strengths-based approach everything revolves around the person. The guide and film explain this and give practical tips on how to use the approach.

Joshua’s cookery

The film features Joshua, who needs care and support after his wife died two years ago. Why was it important for Joshua to mention his career as a cook in the merchant navy? Joshua’s social worker picked up on his cookery skills and now Joshua helps out in the canteen at his local social club. Joshua is now less isolated and is using his skills in the community. Under the Care Act, all assessments and care and support plans should be ‘outcome-focused’, so that people like Joshua can see their lives improved. Joshua’s part of the process, not separate from it.

What staff can do

Professionals need to play their part; they need to have the confidence to listen and then act on what they’ve learnt about people’s priorities. So, for instance, professionals can use ‘strengths-mapping’, looking at what there is in a community to meet people’s care and support needs. The guide also has advice for professionals on preparing for an assessment using a strengths-based approach. Assessments should now be about supporting people to take the lead in finding their own solutions. Schools, libraries and local businesses should all be considered to see what they can offer. And there has to be buy-in from everyone including:

  • Local authority management
  • Assessors
  • Commissioners
  • The local community.

They all need to identify what support is available in the community. This means being flexible, creative and working with new partners. This can help to build better health and social care.

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