The Department of Health, in partnership with the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) and the Principal Social Worker (PSW) Network, has published a joint social work integration advice note.
Integration has many different interpretations.
Sometimes it is about integrating hospital and community health services…
Sometimes it is about making sure that health, social care and housing are coming together to offer a more integrated approach to people’s needs…
And sometimes it is regarded as the Holy Grail to get more out of the system for the same or less money!
For me, the focus must be on putting the person, their family, carers and community networks at the centre of the web of care. It’s about working with them to integrate responses which meet their needs, removing the obstacles to leading positive and rewarding lives.
It is not primarily the means to meeting the needs of organisations and systems, sorting out structural arrangements or budgets.
Social work is essential to integration, to support the social model and social care approaches alongside the medical approaches and treatment models. In integrated arrangements, social workers need to be able to hold their own within multidisciplinary contexts and make sure that people’s rights, wishes and best outcomes are supported by the whole system.
Minister for Community Health and Care David Mowat agrees:
Social workers are uniquely placed to understand and advocate for individuals and families with complex needs – especially where health issues overlap with other life pressures including housing, employment and the desire to be accepted within supportive communities. Social workers are helping to make sure health and care services pursue best outcomes collaboratively – anchoring them to the needs of the people they serve. This is true integration.
In October 2016 I held an event that brought together ADASS members and principal social workers to discuss the critical value that social work practice brings to an integrated health and care system.
75 people attended to discuss key adult social work roles and the values that social workers can bring to services, including safeguarding, mental health, learning disability, end of life/ palliative care and primary/community healthcare.
The aim of the day was to develop a clearer narrative for the benefits of integration generally, but essentially bringing to life the core values of social work and the ways in which these values need to underpin best practice.
Following the event, we have now published an advice note, authored by Dr Adi Cooper in collaboration with ADASS and the PSW Network.
The note sets out to explain the contribution social workers make and how to support local and regional health and social care integration initiatives.
The note should be used to support and inform local and regional health and social care integration initiatives. It explains:
- the critical contribution that social workers make to integrated services
- how social work is essential to the whole system
- the necessity of support to ensure integration succeeds
It also includes ‘top tips’ for directors of adult social services and for principal social workers to assist in embedding integrated approaches to health and social care.
I hope the sector finds this helpful and I welcome any feedback on anything further that could be included or referenced to make sure we get integration as right as we can.