Have spent a great morning with members in the South West today – talking about key policy areas for the sector and continuing our focus on the health and social care. I was delighted to be joined by Robin Johnson, who I left this afternoon leading members through a masterclass in Psychologically Informed Environments.
However, and I need to choose my words carefully here, members of ‘the sector’ were raising the challenge of what we now call the ‘sector’. I was seeking to explain to University colleagues and health commissioners present in the audience what we understood to be housing related support. I was firmly told by some members that this is no longer how they refer to their services, and actively discourage staff from ‘looking back’ to the old SP definitions and descriptions of the work that they do.
So – what do they now call their services – and how do they differ from what they were offering 4-5 years ago. It does seem that some of the key is in the name – services now being described in terms of their role in the community, their focus on wellbeing, their contribution to resilience and their success around prevention. Some even went as far as to say that they were discouraging the connection with housing – not wanting to make the link explicit.
So where does this leave the services they offer – and how do they distinguish themselves from other community based services offering similar resilience based approaches. How does a support worker offering advice around financial management differentiate themselves from an outreach Money Advice worker? How does a support worker offering support to engage with community activities differ from a befriending service? Surely the key difference is that these activities are being carried out with the sole purpose of ensuring the client has sufficient support to enable them to remain in their home?
I think that members are probably in tune with raising the question of how we brand the work that we do – and that this may be yet another nod to the pervasive influence of localism. What floats the boat of resilience in the SW, may be staunchly anchored to the post of housing related support in the WM. However, I think breaking the link between the work we do and ensuring client stay housed will serve us badly. If we are to continue to push for housing to be recognised as having a central role in the health and wellbeing of individuals, in the prevention of entry into more acute services and the key to remaining independent and being able to contribute actively to the community then we need to shout out about our connection with housing. If local authorities will no longer pay for housing support, then we may need to convince health commissioners to pay for wellbeing support – but they need to understand that the wellbeing comes from being supported to remain independent and critically ‘at home’ (wherever that may be).
What do you think? What do you now call the work that you do?