Authors: Bob Rhodes and Ralph Broad
Bob Rhodes and Ralph Broad argue that social work and social care should return to the thinking set out in the Barclay report and renew their commitment to community.
It is time to accept that markets offer few solutions for how we care for each other.
It is nearly 30 years since the publication of the majority Barclay Committee Report on the role and tasks of the social worker. In the intervening years these have changed radically, most markedly in relation to engagement with adults - and not in the direction recommended by the Report. With hindsight, this may reflect deep contradictions within the report that seriously undermined its most powerful insights.
Barclay observed that social workers “operate uneasily on the frontier between what appears to be unlimited needs on the one hand and an inadequate pool of resources on the other” (p.vii). The Committee understood the inevitability of an exponential growth in demand and the unsustainability inherent in dependence upon funded service solutions.
The Report went on to recognise the centrality of ‘informal care’ and to recommend the general adoption of the community social work approach that had been witnessed in many neighbourhoods during the Committee’s fact-finding exploration. In contemporary parlance they proposed that social workers should engage in:
It seems that they appreciated the long-term, iterative, and developmental nature of good social interventions. They would have been appalled by the episodic, task focused and target-driven approach that has emerged instead.
The Report called for a greater delegation to the front-line, more trust, and a greater acceptance of risk. It noted that, “things are bound to go wrong from time to time, and this needs to be accepted by management, elected members, and the general public” (p.131). It went on to call for a culture of professional and personal responsibility and warned against the imposition of rigid hierarchical controls believing that these make the occurrence of disasters all the more likely.
Further, the Committee largely concurred with allegations that social services departments functioned reactively rather than strategically (a habit that has now become institutionalised) and they failed to adopt what we might describe as an asset-based approach. They felt that the role played by informal carers was undervalued and that department’s failed to plan collaboratively with voluntary, volunteer (it is of note that this difference was acknowledged and that it was stressed that every voluntary organisations should be viewed as an “equal partner”), statutory and private service on a local basis. They were clear that the role of carers should not be “taken over” by formal services but insistent that carers were not to be “left to struggle unsupported” (p.75).
So far so good but, with hindsight, it seems likely that all of this was ‘blown out of the water’ by two further proposals:
The Report imagined social workers working mindfully within the context of communities where state interventions often become problematic. The Report proposed a method and strategy for a radical redefinition of Social Services and the development of a collegiate community social work profession.
However the Report was also a reaction to the perceived weakness of the social work profession, and as central government perceived things, it was accountable to maverick and irresponsible local authorities.
It seems that many saw the proposals as romantically aspirational, ‘wild and woolly’, and undeliverable.
Above all it is clear with hindsight that Barclay simply reported at the worst possible time. Subsequently most of its recommendations have been dusted off and synthesised into attempts at remediation, but in 1982 there was only one acceptable public services strategy – the market.
The prevailing Governmental dogma of the time, which still insinuates every strand of thinking to this day, had the following elements:
The idea that social workers could become rationers and gatekeepers was grasped enthusiastically and market frameworks were imposed on the messy business of supporting people in communities. Self-determination, community and co-production – the relationship currency upon which community transactions depend – was seen as fuzzy and unhelpful.
The work of McKnight and Kretzmann, that helps explain why communities do not function according to the rules of institutions and businesses, would not surface in the UK for another decade. So we were not able to understand that the challenge of ensuring that we care for each other, and particularly the most needy, involves creating a virtuous relationship between the institutional and community worlds. This would have been the business of Barclay’s Community Social Workers and today’s potential Local Area or Neighbourhood Coordinators. Nor had we the insight to grasp that programmes and services were simply complementary to real care - that for most of us, for most of the time, care is rooted in strong families, friends, neighbours and associations.
Although - despite the policy focus on market-solutions - there remained a constant awareness of their weakness and the need for a community focus. For instance in The role of the Social Worker in the 21st century: A literature review – The Scottish Government 2005 it is stated:
The Kilbrandon report (Kilbrandon 1964), the Seebohm report (Seebohm 1968), the Barclay report (Barclay 1982), and the Griffiths report (Griffiths 1988) all evidence this. They all reflect the recurring emphasis on the importance of working not just with individuals but with individuals as members of communities. These reports highlight that community social work could play a significant role in supporting community members to address the circumstances in which they find themselves (see also Ferraro 2003). The paradox is that despite the fact that this is seen to be the clear value of the community social work approach, organisational and structural changes in the way in which social work services are provided are seen to have inhibited its growth and development.
The central problem with the Community Care Reforms is encapsulated in that quote. The market-based reforms viewed the individual as a consumer and focused on the development of systems to administer consistent arrangements, which have always been undermined as demand exceeds supply.
In essence the central flaw in the market model is the assumption that everything that really ‘counts’ can be bought and sold, and counted. As a consequence, over many years, the health and social care system has become very complicated (for people and families) and it has increasingly focused solely on services and money for solutions.
This has resulted in many unintended consequences, including:
Another pernicious consequence of marketized social care has been the commercialisation of the voluntary sector. It may be argued that non-governmental organisations had led the innovation of social policy over the centuries and Barclay cites the voluntary sector as flexible, innovative and a key source of choice. However voluntary organisations now find themselves invited to compete for contracts for services specified by commissioners who themselves are increasingly constrained by prescriptive financial and regulatory bureaucracies. This did not stimulate a market of providers offering partnerships with families and their neighbours - instead discrete silos of comprehensive ‘care’ were provided. The voluntary organisations born of citizen’s associating to realise their aspirations were redefined as nominally non-profit making competitors to deliver the commodities specified by institutions. Those that did not join the game tended to wither from neglect and demoralisation.
Meanwhile the glass-half empty cult of needs assessment and eligibility burgeoned and concurrently the resilience and resourcefulness of communities was undermined as citizens joined their masters in a mind-set of dependence upon professions and services. In truth, over the last three decades we have seen a transition from visionary and innovative leadership to one of defensive and bureaucratic systems administration. There is a need for radical change and we are forced to question whether this can be brought about through the current machinery. We find it very worrying that, despite the mounting evidence of the dysfunctional and unsustainable state of our social care system, there have been so few calls from those responsible for its leadership for radical change.
Over time the key ideas summarised by Barclay, and the other key reports, have incrementally resurfaced. Personalisation, self-direction, inclusion, and most recently ‘Big Society’ have all been adopted as keystone policies but, as they are all bolted onto a contradictory market and systems culture, seem destined to be sooner or later diluted out of all recognition. We would observe that it is the central core of the social care system that is dysfunctional and no amount of bolting-on of remedies will, in our judgement, correct this.
The following paragraphs constitute a starting framework for conversations and action research leading to the implementation of locally designed and neighbourhood focused social care coordination arrangements that are accountable and responsive to the communities served. This is not a blueprint and there is no silver bullet. However we would recommend that we could do worse than return to the fundamental principles set out in Barclay as a starting template for the redesign of our social care system.
We propose the development of a new and radical model of social work - built upon the best in Barclay.
We must acknowledge that funding is finite and it will never be sufficient to satisfy demand through the provision of public services. Moreover such services cannot even meet essential human needs like belonging, loving and contributing.
Our new model does not rely on processes of needs assessment and eligibility; instead it locates resource management and rationing within neighbourhoods and heralds the invention of transparent, flexible and creative mechanisms for doing this within an asset-based culture. We should turn away from further limiting the number of citizens who are entitled to support to instead using social care funding to serve many more - through prevention and early intervention.
We are fully aware that this not only requires a sea change in professional mindsets but also a major shift in public perception and in the way that our social structures impact upon active citizenship.
However our enthusiasm for these approaches is not founded in wishful thinking but rather upon the domestic and international research. Here we cite just a few examples of the many that could be quoted and suggest that one approach, Local Area Coordination, can incorporate the other approaches described, and should provide the starting operational framework for the realisation of the Barclay principles.
For instance the New Economics Foundation in 2010 in their Co-production – a Manifesto for Growing the Core Economy stated:
William Beveridge’s 1942 Report which founded Britain’s post-war welfare state was cautiously hopeful, though it warned of the consequences of undermining people’s sense of personal responsibility for tackling common problems. What seems strangest, reading it 60 years on, is that it assumes that spending on health and welfare will make people healthier and more self-reliant. Beveridge calculated that the cost of the NHS, for example, would fall. More than six decades after his report, it is clear that the prediction was quite wrong. Far from a gradual improvement in health and a reduction in costs, health services the world over see the very opposite happening. What has been true in health is also true in other policy areas. Many parents feel alienated from their children’s schooling and overwhelmed by the behaviour of the next generation. In crime, the legacy of over-professionalised policing cut off from neighbourhoods – the very connection which make crime-fighting possible – is all around us. Professionals who work in these areas need their clients’ help if they are going to succeed. Not just their clients, either, but their clients’ families and neighbours too. These are vital wasted assets which professionals need if they are going to make permanent change happen. They are hidden resources, not drains on the system...
Genuine co-production will always:
Define public service clients as assets who have skills that are vital to the delivery of services. For example, when young people are old enough to leave local authority care, they are set up in a flat of their own, and it is considered bad practice for any of their former carers or case workers to maintain contact with them. This extraordinary situation is mirrored in other areas of public service, such as when families in crisis are inevitably left to fend for themselves. What they all need is local friends, supporters and mentors, but they could also be encouraged to be friends, supporters and mentors to other people.
Define work to include anything that people do to support each other. If it is co-production, then it will actively break down the divisions between professional and client, between service provider and service user, work and volunteering.
Include some element of reciprocity. Reciprocity ensures that people are actively involved because they are themselves being supported, and because we have a basic human need to give and take. The opportunity to feel needed and valued by others can play an important role in increasing self-esteem, personal aspiration and a sense of purpose. One example is time banking, where what people do to help is recorded and rewarded, and entitles them to help from others – or more obvious rewards.
Build community. Personal budgets without co-production do not build the kind of social networks people need. The core of co-production is that it allows public services to play an active role in building and sustaining networks and support. Edgar Cahn describes the ability of neighbourhoods to keep people well, bring up children and prevent crime as the ‘core economy’ – the operating system of society which makes everything else possible. Co-production is about growing the core economy.
Support resilience. The purpose of co-production is to transform society. Developing the resilience of individuals and communities is about creating personal experiences upon which people can base future decisions. This requires opportunities for people to learn and take calculated risks that they can then learn from. To do this constructively, people need supportive networks around them. Current structures limit people’s opportunities to experiment for fear of the consequences of failure. However, without these supported opportunities people may fail to develop the frames of reference that will make them more resilient and less reliant on the services in the longer term.
We can also see this positive perspective in Asset-Based Community Development. The following quote comes from Building Communities from the Inside Out by John P Kretzmann and John L McKnight:
Every single person has capacities, abilities and gifts. Living a good life depends upon whether those capacities can be used, abilities expressed and gifts given. If they are, the person will be valued, feel powerful and well connected to the community around them. And the community will be more powerful because of the contribution the person is making.
Each time a person uses his or her capacity, the community is stronger and the person more powerful. That is why strong communities are basically places where the capacities of local residents are identified, valued and used. Weak communities are places that fail, for whatever reason, to mobilize the skills, capacities and talents of their residents or members.
While the raw material for community-building is the capacity of its individual members, some communities have failed to understand this. One of the reasons this basic resource is underdeveloped in weak communities is because the community has come to focus on the deficiencies rather that the capacities of its members. This deficiency focus is usually described as a concern about the needs of local members. And these needs are understood to be the problems, shortcomings, maladies and dilemmas of people.
It is clear that every individual has his needs or deficiencies. It is also clear that every individual has gifts and capacities. This fact reminds us of a glass of water filled to the middle. The glass is half full and it is half empty (and it’s the half full part that nourishes us!) Local residents, likewise, have capacities and they also have deficiencies. However, the part of people that builds powerful communities is the capacity part of its members. Therefore, the basic information needed to develop strong communities is an inventory of the capacities of its residents (and the wherewithal to animate and connect these citizens and their talents)
Unfortunately, in some communities local residents have come to mistakenly believe that they can build their community by an inventory of deficiencies. The common name for this deficiency inventory is a “needs survey” (or a needs assessment). It is basically an effort to count up the emptiness in an individual or a neighbourhood. The problem is that this information is not used for community building because it deals with people as potential clients and consumers. To be powerful, a community must have people who are citizens and producers.
Think of a carpenter who has lost one leg in an accident years ago. Clearly he has a deficiency. However, he also has a skill. If we know he has a missing leg, we cannot build our community with that information. If we know he has a capacity as a woodworker that information can literally build our community.
The following account was written by Bob Rhodes from ideas and practices demonstrated by Mike Green:
The application of asset based thinking to issues of inclusion, community building and cohesion, and social care has proved really challenging for the state and its institutions for a very simple reason:
Institutions, and this term encapsulates just about all ‘constituted’ bodies (and this includes most voluntary organisations) and the places where we work, are organised for consistency, reliability and sustainability. They are places of production, governance, systems, policies, regulations, procedures and control. They serve consumers by attending to need and supplying programmes and services as remedies. Their currency is usually public money and the lingua franca one of contracts.
Citizens connect and form associations because they care enough about something to spend time agreeing a broadly common vision, deciding what they are going to do, and then doing it. Many of these associations morph into institutions over time. Associations get things done (often despite the obstructions placed in their way by usually well-meaning institutions) without asking permission, connecting the gifts, talents, assets and social capital of enthusiasts. The work of associations is a product of consensus, care, hospitality, respect and deserved loyalty. The language is one of relationships.
Just as it is argued that ‘red tape’ needs to be cut away to enable business entrepreneurialism, we are clear that statutory cultures need to be rolled back so that associational life in our communities can blossom and the ‘professional occupation’ of territories that used to be the preserves of families, friends, and neighbours needs to be reversed. This will only be achieved when those who lead on policy understand ‘contracts’ is not ‘spoken’ by citizens and their free associations and that tenders, competition, specifications, and monitoring are no way to connect with the assets abundance that is our communities.
A couple of years ago a rugby playing daughter and her friends considered setting up a ladies section at her local club (where she had spent many years as a mini and junior). RFU rules required the presentation of a business plan. There is still no ladies team at that club. Enough said?
the following is taken from Safe and Secure (Scottish Edition) by Etmanski, Collins, Cammack & Rowley of the the PLAN Institute:
There is probably no one who can ever look after your relative with the same persistence, interest, and determination as you. That’s a fact. However, unless you’ve tapped the fountain of youth, you won’t be around forever. That’s a fact, too. So what’s the next best thing? The best guarantee of a safe and secure future for a person with a disability (or anyone dependent upon care) is having a number of caring and committed friends, family members, acquaintances and supporters actively involved in their life. It’s as simple as that...
A Circle of Support (Personal Relationship Network) is a team. It is a group of people who come together for three basic purposes: the safety, health and wellbeing of your relative, the person at the centre of the circle. A healthy Circle of Support is one where all the members are in touch with each other, coordinating their involvement and on top of things. They are united by bonds of friendship, love and trust.
And also from Al Etmanski's A Good Life:
We are not interested in reforming the social service system and its institutions. Instead, we want to create a different approach – an approach that relegates the social service system to the background. In the decisions you and your relative make as you create a safe and secure future with them, you will likely find that the social service system and its institutions play a supplementary role.
We want to create a new team – a team that places your relative, their friends, neighbours and family at the heart of the solution. We want to create a new question. Instead of, “What variety of services and programmes will my relative need?” the question becomes, “What is a good life?”
There is a valid argument that asserts that citizens should be protected from the emergence of yet another institutional and professional occupation of their territory and we would support the view that the last thing needed is another costly profession. However, we are clear that there is an urgent need for the role and function of support brokerage to be available to people who need some help to realise their good lives and make the most of all their assets. Moreover we are convinced that support brokerage is a core activity of community social work and an essential component of viable social care reform. Any effective support broker, in our construct of the activity and be they a family member, friend, or professional, bridges and interlaces the institutional and community worlds in order to maximise the value of potential contributions from both. The ‘support brokerage’ contracts and in-house arrangements operated currently by so many local authorities are impoverished by an abject dependence upon money and services, systems and control.
Stripped down, support brokerage devotes time and effort to assist people to:
Local Area Coordination is a simple and practical approach practiced by resourceful and talented professional animateurs. It starts with the public resources available and links these to the strengths and talents abundant within every community and builds social care upon a natural and sustainable platform of relationships and associations. It provides a single, local and accessible point of contact supporting children and adults in their local community and is intentionally designed to:
The aim is to intentionally simplify the system, making it more personal, flexible and accountable. Its starting point is prevention, building self-sufficiency and interdependence, and nurturing local solutions and no longer based upon over-dependence on services and the eligibility and rationing contradictions that attend this limited vision. The ‘front end’ of the system moves from deficit-based assessments, accompanied by attempts to fix things through money and services alone, to getting to know people and communities well, exploring their vision for a good life, and working together to find a range of alternatives for getting there.
Coordinators focus on individual, family and community gifts, skills and resources as the primary sources of support and are in most cases the first point of referral in the neighbourhood they serve. They characterize a culture that realistically locates the responsibility for social care with families and communities with the state providing supplementary, specialist, and safety-net services and acting, as best it can, as honest broker in respect of the distribution of public funds. They bridge and, over time, narrow the gap between communities and their institutions, informing and advising citizens as they organise their lives and informing reform in public services and building communities in the course of their day to day, coalface practice.
Within this framework citizens in communities are supported to care for each other by neighbourhood based professionals charged with securing good, loved, secure and contributing lives for all by utilising all the strengths, gifts and talents of that locality, including its fair share of the public purse, through the intentional building of more welcoming, interdependent, and inclusive communities.
Over the years far too few professionals in the social care sphere have had any opportunity, both during their training and in subsequent practise, to acquire and develop the knowledge, skills, confidence and, most importantly, autonomous practitioner mindsets that underpin this enabling and problem-solving approach. Concurrently the professional education world and qualification curricula have evolved to supply a workforce for a different and, in reality, less exposed and accountable roles. These are matters that will need to be addressed with a planned and rigorously supported change management strategy as LAC practice expands.
In addition to changing the “front end” of the system to promote self sufficiency and prevention, the underlying thinking provides the opportunity to maximise reform in other parts of the service system, “stripping out a layer of process and bureaucracy”, as well as redefining funding arrangements (carefully targeted resources for prevention), reshaping traditional service models and shifting resources closer to people and their local communities (Bartnik, 2010, p. 121).
It therefore offers the chance to shape thinking around the purpose and expected outcomes from formal services and provider organisations, as well as consider community partnerships and alternative, sustainable approaches to community living – intentionally increasing the choice and range of alternatives available to citizens.
LAC offers the opportunity to manage radical changes in the service system organically and iteratively. One local authority is shifting resources to Local Area Coordination and capacity building at the “front end” and incrementally mapping the formal services that will be required to back this up. This is a truly evidence-based approach rather than the usual informed guess at reshaping the service system subject to heavy canvassing by the interested professions. As a consequence services are changing to meet the needs of citizens in the context of a growing understanding of the complementary contributions of communities and services.
It provides the opportunity to start new conversations to reduce service “gaps” (between service “silos”), consider shared objectives and effective use of resources at the service and community level (minimising duplication, reducing complexity for individuals and families) and the potential preventative impact of small amounts of resources at the individual and community level.
Evaluations over the past 20 years or more have shown that when Local Area Coordination is fully implemented and asset-based thinking integrated into social care systems, a range of common outcomes start to develop. These include:
It will take inspired and tenacious leadership to secure such a cultural revolution at all levels in public services. Real change will demand the ditching of Fordian management systems and a real investment in trust and professionalism. It will require simple and transparent decisions about the devolution of funds and public resources to neighbourhood managers and, in time, their advisory groups of local citizens and a strong aversion to retaining central arrangements, resources, and too great a crisis fund.
It will demand a commitment to catching people getting it right, to rewarding ‘good’ mistakes, to making individualised budgets and community development funds central to the method, to supporting innovation and experimentation, to celebrating outcomes rather than chasing process, to long term vision and goals, to preserving and rewarding successful teams to ensure their longevity, to training and organisational development, to re-educating and re-culturing the populace and not succumbing to populist temptations, and much more.
It will take a new reflective and intentionally strategic approach to the use of funds, ensuring that this reinforces and supports sustainable local solutions. Funds management processes will be as transparent as possible and accountable to local people through simple social accounting mechanisms.
However, the most urgent acts of leadership will demand all of the above activities and more in delivering the requisite number of significant demonstration projects to provide a properly researched and evaluated evidence-base for policy change of the order recommended. The potentially world-changing initiatives of the last decade, such as Transforming Social Care, Every Child Matters/Aiming High, In Control, and Putting People First have all been in part hamstrung because they have been bolted on to a scarcity and deficit system that has persistently eroded their integrity. The necessary demonstration projects will only have validity if they have commitment from all sides and can operate separately from the prevailing system and without additional constraints.
Individualism and consumerism have been the dominant themes of recent decades and, given a history of institutionalisation and depersonalisation in UK human services, it might have been expected that we might seek reparation by a strong commitment to individualisation. However, we had overlooked the fact that while we are all individuals our humanity and potential is mainly realised through our relationships and associations.
The underlying message is very simple. The delivery of sustainable and truly caring social care is beyond the scope and competence of business methods and constituted institutions alone. Business operates in a world of producers and consumers. In many public services, and social care is an excellent example of this, transactions need to be much more subtle and complex. Here the managed assets and talents of the programmes and services world needs to be skilfully melded with those of the cooperative and associational world of families, neighbours and community.
If we manufacture confectionary we will be interested in our consumers’ views on our products and use their feedback to make our sweets all the more irresistible and our sales figures soar. It is a relatively simple relationship. Social care is not like that. For the citizen to be truly in receipt of care we have to accept that the institutional world of programmes and services has to be complementary to his or her ‘natural world’ of family, friends and associates and these have to be part of the production team. In the analogy they are not employees and will not be directed; indeed they are the directors. And where they do not exist in sufficient strength it should be one of the Local Area (Neighbourhood) Co-ordinator’s tasks to seek to remedy that.
We think that it is long overdue that we return to the basic premises set out in Barclay, rediscover the roots of British social services and social action, and utilise the frameworks provided by strength’s based thinking and Local Area Coordination. We would recommend that, working with our glass half-full, we should go back to the community social work principles applauded by Barclay and resume our journey from there using a framework of strengths based approaches and Local Area Coordination.
Strength’s-based thinking and Local Area Coordination offer practical methodologies to realize the radical aspirations set out in Think Local, Act Personal:
Our response is to encourage continued reform. In doing so, we place a huge premium on efficient, effective and integrated service delivery alongside partnership working to support the contribution of individuals, their families, carers and the wider community - reducing the need for acute health and care support.
When this approach is dynamically and reflectively led it can offer a foundation upon which to build the iterative, incremental and locally sensitive reforms that are so desperately needed in our social care system.
Moves are afoot to develop this thinking and practice in many parts of the UK. If you are interested in participating and want discuss this with us, please contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Barclay P. - Social Workers: their role and tasks (the Barclay Report). Bedford Square Press (1982)
Glasby J. - The Future of Adult Social Care: Lessons from Previous Reforms. Research Policy and Planning (2005)
Bartnik, E. Chalmers, R. - It's about More than the Money: Local Area Coordination Supporting People with Disabilities. Co-Production and Personalisation in Social Care (2007)
Bartnick, E. - Putting People in Control: Reforming the System of Support for Disabled People. Liberation Welfare (2010)
Asquith, Clark & Waterhouse - The Role of the Social Worker in the 21st Century: A Literature Review. The Scottish Government (2005)
The publisher is The Centre for Welfare Reform.
Revisiting Barclay © Bob Rhodes and Ralph Broad 2011.
All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.