Written by Karen Pratt
My background is commercial. I worked in hospitality for many years and my last role was as National Business Director for a private healthcare company. I’m used to sitting on boards where decisions were almost always profit focused and things happened quickly because little red tape stood in our way. My move into Social Care three years ago was a bit of a culture shock but not as much as you might imagine. I am CEO of an adult learning disability support provider in North East Scotland. Inspires, support around 300 people in their own homes, in housing, employment and training. We employ over 500 staff and our vision is to empower people’s life choices
Because of a shift in the way support providers are expected to deliver services, can achieve funding and need to interact with customers, there has been a big change in the way organisations like ours operate. Whereas before providers often negotiated bulk contracts with local authorities to provide support services, we now operate in a market that puts the end customer much more firmly in the driving seat. We now need to speak to people face-to-face, find out what an individual wants and needs and tailor our service to meet their needs. Self directed support is only just filtering through in Scotland, and we are still some way behind England in terms of implementation but it is the future and as such it has very much changed the way we operate in the here and now.
People aren’t always comfortable with the concept of marrying commercial business principles with social care. It can feel a little cold and technical to discuss business models, profit and loss, forecast and projections in relation to services that have traditionally been described as third sector, charities or non-profit making. The truth is though, all organisations have to generate funds in order to operate. One of my jobs as CEO has been to ensure that the team believe in generating profits; not so that some shareholder somewhere can benefit, but so that we can allocate money into having the very best staff with the very best training, delivering exceptional services.
When I consider how much the third sector has changed in recent years, my move from commercial business to social care feels far less dramatic. I have always been customer focused and whereas before we support providers might have provided a one-size-fits-all model, now we work hard to find out about the individual, what they want, need, what their budget is, what their aspirations are for the future, what is important to them; we develop a support package that works with them to achieve this.
I’m always looking at new ways to improve our services for the people we support and to ensure that we are providing our staff teams with the very best experience. When one of our Directors first told me about one-page profiles I was keen to learn more. We learnt from social care provider, Dimensions, that profiles can help people direct their own support, match people working together, build better relationships and make good introductions. Dimensions has introduced profiles across all staff and people they support and have been fundamental in us rolling out the practice within Inspire.
I strongly believe that one-page profiles will help us to deliver person-centred support to our customers. The profile itself is a simple and succinct tool that communicates what people like and admire about a person, what is important to someone and how to support them well. By using it within our teams we can be sure that we’re supporting staff, celebrating their gifts and understanding them well. By using it with people we support we can understand and appreciate them as individuals, match them well with others and empower them to direct their own support.
We are in the early stages but so far all head office personnel have written one-page profiles, as have service managers. We are in the process of introducing them to more support workers and to the people we support. This is how we are doing it:
- Learning from the experiences of other social care providers who have taken a similar approach to personalisation
- Committing internally to their use at senior management level
- Introducing to teams at team meeting
- Sharing examples of one-page profiles monthly using a team brief email so that people can learn more about each other, work better together, improve relationships and see how a profile works in practice
- Sharing profile templates and profile writing guidelines on the intranet
- Sharing team member profiles on the website for customers and family members to access.
I’m hoping by sharing this practice in this blog, other providers will see how profiles can be rolled out within their organisation. I believe that as our sector continues in its customer focused drive, tools like these will become commonplace. For now though, I think we are ahead of the game and possible the only social care organisation on Scotland to have committed to introduce one-page profiles with everyone we support and employ! Something we can be proud of.