Why social care heads are seeking advice from service users

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The West Midlands ‘peer challenge’ hopes to improve the experience of service users and those who care for relatives. 

As councils debate how best to tackle the challenge of adult social care, directors of social services in the West Midlands are inviting their peers from other councils as well as service users to observe and critique their services.

As part of an 18-month programme organised by the West Midlands branch of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, all 14 directors in the region will undertake a self-assessment. They will then invite a team of experts to carry out a four-day challenge, including people from social care teams in other councils and two experts by experience - such as carers and people who receive adult social care services.

The involvement of experts by experience is designed to ensure that the team remains focused on producing positive outcomes for carers and people receiving care.

Keymn Whervin, a family carer, and Liam Waldron, a person who uses adult social care services, have participated in two reviews so far. They believe their involvement has added to the insight the teams have gained, as well as giving the review more credibility in the eyes of services users and community and voluntary organisations.

Whervin, who has cared for her mother for 14 years, believes that as well as being able to understand the challenges facing the council from the other side of the fence she has been able to add a perspective that councils sometimes overlook.

"When councils are under so much pressure to save money and find different ways of delivering services they sometimes overlook the simple and common sense solutions," she says. "As part of the teams we have been able to ask very simple questions that are obvious to the outsider but can be missed."

Liam, who has a disability, says he sees his role on the team as providing a professional service, similar to that of a consultant. He also wants to reflect the frustrations that service users face when they are dealing with large organisations. "I feel I can bring empathy and understanding that helps to inform the team of how council officers sometimes appear," he says.

The involvement of experts by experience adds to the quality of the peer challenge process and reminds us of what those who work in the social care sector are all trying to deliver – service improvements working with rather than simply for users and carers.

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Article Source:   The Guardian