In difficult times, asset-based approaches offer a hopeful way forward

Ewan King

By Ewan King, director of business development and delivery, the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE)

This month we have been reminded again that health and social care finances remain in a perilous state. This would be worrying enough if what we were trying to protect were consistently good services. But we know through many sources, whether it’s statistics about delays in hospitals or failing care homes, that a lot of existing services could be much better. We need a different way.

We need to improve services, learning from the best, but we also need to look beyond the doors of statutory services, towards individuals and communities, for answers. We need services which build on, and complement, the skills, capabilities, friendships and resources which all individuals and communities possess.

This is called an asset-based or strengths-based approach of providing care and support; and in some areas it is beginning to transform experiences and outcomes.

Last year SCIE helped Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership develop a model for thinking about asset-based health, housing, care and support. Building on the thinking of Alex Fox of Shared Lives Plus, this set out a simple framework for considering how best to enable asset-based approaches to flourish, whether that is through a different approach to commissioning, or through more co-production with communities.

But does an asset-based approach actually work? Yes, but it can take time, and needs sustained and brave leadership and investment in the community. So in the Isle of Wight, as part of their My Life a Full Life vanguard, nine local area coordinators have been employed by the council to support people to think about what a 'good life' might look like for them, by spending time talking about their life and what might make it better. The results of these changes have been impressive, leading to statistically significant improvements in people’s health status, health confidence and personal wellbeing.

Speaking with us at last week’s NHS Confederation conference, Donna Hall from Wigan talked about how their area-wide asset-based Wigan deal is reducing demand for formal care and starting to shift public health indicators in the right direction. She’s also discussed this on a SCIE blog.

These examples offer promising glimpses of what might be possible. Imagine what would also be possible if we adopted this way of working across the board? Surely it’s time to more fully embrace asset-based working.

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