‘People need people and people need to be needed’ – a new health and social care mantra?

Public and 3rd sector services have a fighting chance – if they are more collaborative, strengths-based and focus on Relationships & Purpose says Hugh Irwin

Public and 3rd sector services have a fighting chance of financial sustainability and at the same time improving outcomes for individuals, families and communities if they work more collaboratively in a strengths-based capacity. But what they all must do is ultimately direct that strengths-based collaboration back to addressing two universal truths and basis of a better life – Relationships & Purpose.

There is currently a lot of talk in the public and third sectors (and increasingly in the private sector in relation to management of change) about strengths-based approaches, trauma-informed approaches, early intervention and their importance to promoting  better wellbeing outcomes for individuals, families and communities.  There is an increasing belief that thin resources can be spread better if strengths-based approaches are used effectively.

Click here to view some working examples of how strengths-based approaches make a positive impact on personal outcomes and use of services.

The Social Services and Wellbeing and Future Generations Acts promote strengths-based approaches and sustainability in services.  The legislation, policy and rhetoric are great. However, there is a major gap between the ‘talk’ and the ‘walk’ for organisations and staff from executive level right through to the front line.  Professional staff working in the public or 3rd sectors want to be upbeat about the direction of policy at the moment – but unless they understand how to properly navigate from policy/rhetoric to strengths-based delivery and action more quickly there is a risk that great sentiments will remain just that and the opportunity to deliver strengths-based services as a default will simply wither on the vine.

There is some great work already happening – particularly by public health, some housing providers, some 3rd sector providers and Social Care Wales in promoting strength-based approaches.  However, to be successful, change needs to be facilitated on a multi-agency basis given the number of organisations that provide services in the same communities, to the same families, to the same individuals.  The amount of organisations involved along with the intensity of the involvement increases for some people higher up on the Index of Multiple Deprivation.

Effecting strengths-based change on a multi-sector level where e.g. the NHS, Social Services, Probation, Housing, Third Sector and so on are working with the same individuals and communities is challenging – but we must make it work to make strength-based practice the default no matter what sector someone works in.

This is possible by finding a ‘shared and safe space’ (after organisational, remits, business and policy parameters are considered) where innovative and collaborative strengths-based approaches can flourish.

The Multi Agency Strengths & Asset Focused Learning Information Network (Masaf-Lin) promotes a multi-sector culture change that draws on a growing evidence base of good practice and research.

We are launching a learning information network in March where organisations can come together to explore good practice, network with like minded professionals from other sectors and identify shared and safe spaces to explore working more collaboratively.

We strongly believe that collaborative strengths-based working will enable a sustainable future for services in an unprecedented era of increasing demand for services and reduced budgets and can help also reduce inequalities in our society.

Irrespective of how people come into contact with services – whether it be an older person who has experienced a major stroke, a person that has developed a substance misuse dependency or someone with enduring mental health challenges – the fundamental challenges remain the same for these individuals.  The precipitating factors or results of their challenges will inevitably have an impact on how they can begin or continue to access positive Relationships in their lives and develop and maintain a meaningful sense of Purpose.  Addressing Purpose and Relationships is key to improving physical and mental wellbeing, reducing reoffending, alleviating homelessness and reducing the take up of statutory services.

We at Masaf-Lin want to support our colleagues in the various sectors to harness collaborative strengths-based approaches to focus on promoting positive relationships and developing a sense of purpose.  Doing this won’t cure, say, an enduring mental health condition or chronic physical health symptoms, but it will at the very least build much better individual and social resilience to these challenges thus making them much more tolerable and reducing reliance on statutory services.  

All articles published on Click on Wales are subject to IWA’s disclaimer.



Hugh Irwin is Co-founder and Director of Masaf-Lin and can be contacted at [email protected]

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