Practice development: collaborative working in social care
- Decide, with input from front-line workers and those using the service, which aspect of work you would like to change or improve. Here are some examples:
- improving safeguarding through better identification of risk at the point of assessment
- improving signposting to people not deemed eligible for social care services (e.g. self-funders)
- improve responses to carers’ needs as identified in assessment.
- Ensure that all participants, including commissioners and service providers, have an agreed understanding of the definitions in the subject area – provide written definitions. For example, improving ‘outcomes’ would require a definition of the term such as: a good outcome is one identified by the person using the service as the desired response to their assessed need.
- Keep it simple. Do not make unrealistic demands on participants. Good research starts with specific and answerable questions.
Collaborative organisations need to share information and ideas, and agree methodology. Returning to their own sites, they can implement this and bring case study material (such as the example below) back for discussion.
Team members are frustrated with providing service-led responses to identified needs (e.g. day centre placements for people who are isolated and community meals for those unable to cook for themselves). People using the services have very low expectations and are not encouraged to focus on what they would actually like in response to their needs assessment. The team agrees to develop outcomes-focused assessment and care planning. Assessing officers agree to identify and record the responses that people want rather than offering standard services. Managers agree to consider more flexible responses to need at the panel.
Mr and Mrs Evans are an elderly couple. Mrs Evans had a fall recently and has restricted mobility. Consequently, Mr Evans has become the main carer and, having never cooked before, he is now trying to cope with shopping and cooking for himself and his wife. Mrs Evan’s assessment identified that she and her husband are not eating well and that they may be at risk of malnutrition.
Rather than provide the standard service response of community meals, the social worker asked the couple what they would like to do. The couple said that they would like to spend some quality time together at meal times rather than being stressed by Mr Evan’s difficulties with cooking for both of them. The following arrangements were made:
- the provision of transport through dial-a-ride twice a week so that the couple could be enabled to eat lunch out in a local café, pub or restaurant of their choice
- support with shopping and cooking for Mr Evans
- once a week the couple call the local takeaway and have a ‘home delivery’ of their favourite Chinese food.
- There is a reduction in the daily stress for Mr Evans of shopping and cooking.
- Mr and Mrs Evans both enjoy their food and each other’s company.
- There is a reduction of the risk of malnutrition.
- There is a small increase in funding, which is required to support Mr Evans with shopping and cooking.
Each site needs to identify:
- a project coordinator for each site – ideally a person from outside the team with a policy and development role. (see Appendix 1 for a role description). If such a person cannot be identified within the organisation, an alternative may be to set up a small strategic panel to take on or delegate the functions of the coordinator. The importance of this role, however, should not be underestimated
- teams or individuals that will participate
- an advisor – a designated practitioner from the team to advise the project coordinator.
Level of involvement
- Fitting it in to the day job – develop ways of fitting data collection and discussions into existing processes (e.g. incorporating information and processes into existing paper formats and team meetings).
- Make sure that all participants are clear about their roles from the outset – provide written briefs (see Appendix 2).
Developing a programme schedule
It is important to have a schedule that identifies timescales for the work that has been agreed by all coordinators, advisors, team managers, practitioners and senior managers across all participating organisations/teams.
Example programme schedule:
- Before data collection:A half-day workshop with all participants, including senior managers, is a necessary investment to ensure sign-up and a clear understanding of the project aims, timescales, processes, roles and requirements.
- Provide written materials such as a brief for participants.
- Agree definitions.
- Agree methods and appropriate accompanying paperwork for data collection.
- Agree methods for the collection of baseline data.
- Anticipate risks to the project and plan contingencies.
- Put in place a protocol for reporting and dealing with unacceptable practice.
During the project:
- The coordinator, advisor and team should meet monthly, within the existing team meeting structure, to facilitate data collection by coordinators.
- The coordinators should keep senior managers informed.
- Meetings should be held every two months for project coordinators and advisors to share ideas and discuss findings and any subsequent changes in practice.
- Mid-way and final events should take place for all organisations/teams to share information, their experience of the project and practice ideas and examples.
After the project:
- Evaluate the project.
- Decide on how to maximise benefit from the learning.
Next in this section: Data collection