Getting the balance right with strengths-based practices
When the Care Act first became legislation, this introduced a need for structured paperwork to help support social work practitioners transition to the new legal framework. As a company supplying best practice assessment and planning tools within health and social care, we responded by adapting our tools to help social work practitioners apply the core principles of the Act. These included putting the person and their well-being at the centre of the process, assessing needs and eligibility in the absence of current support, and applying the broad definition of 'inability' to each of the Care Act outcomes.
We’re now five years on since the Care Act came in, and during that time Local Authorities have had to adopt different ways of working to help them respond to various financial challenges. A major trend we’re now seeing across the country is a move towards some form of a ‘strengths-based approach’ when working with people who have care and support needs.
Implementing a strengths-based approach means that practitioners are trained and encouraged to focus on what an individual is able to or might be able to manage themselves (as opposed to what they’re struggling with). This allows for a more person-centred conversation with outcomes focused around enablement/reablement and identifying what might be available within the wider support network or community that could help.
Embedding the Care Act’s principles
Regardless of the specific strengths-based approach taken by the Local Authority, there is a requirement to ensure that the Care Act’s principles remain embedded in practice and that assessments are holistic and person-centred. Recent judicial reviews have highlighted that the requirement to record high-quality, comprehensive assessments and care and support plans which follow the Act’s principles, is as integral as ever.
This means that any implementation of a strengths-based approach requires a balance between retaining high-quality assessments while enabling practitioners, and the people they are working with, the freedom to have more natural and unstructured conversations.
How we’ve adapted our tools
To support the evolving strength-based practices, we have introduced the Strengths and Needs Assessment (SANA). The SANA was designed in collaboration with Local Authorities and adopted many of the strength-based principles. The main goal was to create something open-ended and flexible that guides natural conversations, considers people’s strengths, and prompts thinking around community assets while still facilitating a robust, defensible and Care Act compliant approach.
Our ‘Formulate’ tool for resource allocation and management has also seen improvements and now produces a range of outputs, not just an Estimated Budget.
With the increase in individuals with more complex needs, it can now produce an informed suggestion of ‘who should pay what’ with regards to joint health and social care funding, to support and strengthen conversations between health and social care.
For individuals in the community, a breakdown of the Estimated Budget by domain is also available. This provides a framework for support planning by giving the person and their social work practitioner detailed information about the spread of their needs and outcomes, enabling creativity when looking at ways to achieve outcomes.
An Estimated Budget can also now be tailored for care home settings, with the tool producing an individualised, needs-based budget alongside an estimated number of hours of support. This helps produce an accurate cost tied to the person’s need, as well as guiding a person-centred support plan.
These outputs are designed to paint a fair and accurate representation of a person’s needs and to add value to the process of capturing the person’s needs and determining the best solution to meet them.
Getting the workflow and forms right can ensure that practitioners have the tools they need and are enabled and empowered to work within a changing culture. This is why we’re offering a free consultation workshop to any Local Authority. During the session, we’ll share best practices from across our nationwide community, discuss the different approaches being adopted, and establish what tools might sit in a new, strengths-based workflow.