Somerset has been singled out for national praise thanks to the County Council’s exemplary support of communities and care providers, its willingness to pioneer change – and its response during the current Coronavirus pandemic.
Somerset County Council is being showcased as an example of how local authorities can work hand in hand with communities to achieve better results for those who need care and support by the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi).
The NDTi report focused on Somerset Community Connect, a partnership between the council and voluntary groups and other organisations across the county, including Community Council for Somerset, Engage, Spark, Age UK, Somerset Sight, SENSE, Deaf Plus, Action on Hearing Loss, Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group and a network of more than 600 micro providers – small, community based care and support services.
The report details the way Somerset tackled the need to do things differently at a time when demand for care and support was increasing and traditional approaches needed changing.
From the first pilot scheme launched in West Somerset, ’Somerset Community Connect’ now embraces the whole county resulting in significant improvements, from better team-working to setting up support networks. The report highlights that people now feel a sense of pride in what they are doing and that everyone is working towards the same aim.
There’s been a dramatic increase in calls to the Council being resolved at the first point of contact and a 25 per cent fall in the number of people admitted to residential or nursing care due to the support people can get to stay in their own homes.
Somerset Community Connect employs local people who link their communities with services and support options. This includes community agents, who share information, advice and support at Talking Cafes, and micro-providers – small, community-based care and support services.
The micro-providers initiative has helped to boost the local economy – almost half (48 per cent) were previously unemployed – and has helped people find care and support close to home.
The partnership has also given communities more say on the kind of support available to residents, including giving them more control over budgets and spending. All this means that local people are getting the right help earlier, potentially avoiding crises, and getting the support they need to stay independent in their own homes.
Working with communities in this way has also stood Somerset in good stead to deal with the coronavirus crisis, with long-established community networks ready to spring into action from the onset of the pandemic. Partnership working with volunteers and community groups has also enabled many people to find the support they need locally without having to seek formal help – reducing unnecessary travel, and freeing council services for the most vulnerable.
Somerset’s homecare providers have also been at the forefront of the county’s health and social care response, and the council has been praised for the way in which it has supported them both before, and during the crisis. Speaking to BBC radio Somerset on 14th May, Tina East – Operations Manager at Care Wyvern – said: “Somerset have been very supportive – they provided a [£3 million] covid uplift, and they started providing small amounts of PPE to supplement our own PPE from the beginning of April.”
The extra support offered by the Council has also been recognised nationally, with Dr Jane Townson, CEO of UK Homecare Association, commenting on twitter; “When we asked @ukhca members on a call recently about which councils are being most supportive of homecare providers during #COVID19, @SomersetCouncil was top of the list”
Councillor David Huxtable, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care at Somerset County Council, said: “It’s very rewarding to see the efforts made by so many organisations across Somerset recognised in this way. We faced real challenges, and by working together and doing things differently achieved results that have had a positive impact on many people’s lives. This way of working and the relationships built over the last 5 years has put us in good stead to cope with the pandemic, enabling us to be responsive to the increase in demand for services.”