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“There’s a human life and story behind every statistic” – reflections from the ADASS Summer Conference

Chloe Williams

At last week’s online ADASS Summer Conference, many attendees reflected on how Covid had starkly exposed inequalities across different communities and the impact this can have on a person’s life.

The energy in the virtual-room was clear: participants were eager to learn from the crisis as it presents a key opportunity to improve how we engage with individuals and communities in the medium and long term. Translating the learning from this year’s Covid response into tangible and sustainable change for citizens and communities most affected by the last few months will be vital in building future resilience and in meeting citizens’ changed demands.

Reflecting with colleagues who joined the conference, five critical areas for response are:

  1. People’s own experiences are crucial to reframing ambition in health and social care. Amy Pollard, Founder of Mental Health Collective, shared her professional and personal experience on the inclusiveness of mental health services. She spoke about how to really listen to what people are telling you and, crucially, how to include these voices when developing a shared ambition. Drawing on lived experience from a wide range of sources (including our own) is fundamental in identifying an ambition for the future. As Richard Webb (North Yorkshire County Council) said, ‘There’s a human life and story behind every statistic’.
  2. Staff delivering at the frontline will be key to sustainable change. Trust and empowerment have been central to the coronavirus response – frontline teams have been given permission to problem-solve, to work across organisational boundaries and with local communities, and to test and learn about what works in preventing needs from escalating. Sustaining these ways of working will be critical.
  3. Applied behavioural science can influence and change behaviours. We should acknowledge that systems drive behaviours and that goodwill alone is not always enough. We need to improve access to tools and support that recognise an individual’s strengths and boost their independence. Behavioural science helps us understand why some things work better than others, why people prefer to engage locally, the importance of local-led solutions, and why colleagues have felt both more connected and more isolated over this period.
  4. Voluntary and Community Sector deserves greater prominence. I was struck by the passion with which people spoke about the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS), and of the strength and capacity demonstrated by communities to support each other during a crisis. Partnership working often focuses on the relationship with health, but the conference demonstrated the need to broaden what we mean by ‘managing interfaces’ to include VCS.
  5. Managing trajectories and responding to performance is crucial. Defining success, setting targets, committing to managing trajectories and responding to performance is imperative. This may not be as glamourous as piloting the latest technology, but speakers from Cambridgeshire County Council and Bradford Council clearly articulated how a trajectory management approach enables you to focus on and deliver widescale change.

The conference came at a critical time for the sector, and I was encouraged to hear widespread commitment to seize the moment. It will be fascinating to see how this plays out over the coming months, but focusing on these five areas will enable the adult social care community to bounce forward, not just bounce back.

To find out more about what Directors of Adult Social Services are thinking, Ralph Cook recently interviewed 10 DASSs on the challenges and opportunities created by the pandemic.

Download the publication: ‘Learning from Covid: five questions for the adult social care sector’

Written by

Chloe Williams

Manager, IMPOWER



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