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This blog post was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Our greatest asset is ourselves

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Care and support, Guest author

‘It’s time to use the assets we have in our communities,’ says Ewan King, Director of Business Development and Delivery at the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE).

Ewan King: 'The Care Act, which represents the largest reform to social care since the Beverage Report, holds the potential for asset-based approaches to become the norm rather than a rarity.'
Ewan King: 'The Care Act, which represents the largest reform to social care since the Beverage Report, holds the potential for asset-based approaches to become the norm rather than a rarity.'

It’s time to make asset-based approaches more widespread, but what do we think of when we hear the word ‘asset’? Something valuable to us or someone we know perhaps – such as a house or car? Or maybe we think of people who stow their expensive possessions in bank vaults?

For those of us who work in social care, however, the term has a much broader meaning. It describes the relationships, skills, shared facilities and networks we can use as individuals in our communities. And if we adopt an asset-based or strength-based approach, we can harness these resources to produce better outcomes.

This is not a new approach; several organisations (Think Local Act Personal, SCIE trustee Alex Fox’s Shared Lives Plus and the Royal Society of Arts) have been talking about it for some time. But what’s different now is that the Care Act, which represents the largest reform to social care since the Beverage Report, holds the potential for asset-based approaches to become the norm rather than a rarity.

The Care Act 2014 talks about how assessment must be driven by an asset-based or strength-based approach. It argues that social care professionals need to consider the wider relationships, networks and resources people have in understanding their needs as well as their own strengths and resources. SCIE, which is producing guidance on assessment and eligibility on behalf of the Department of Health, has seen how Doncaster’s local authority is using an asset-based approach to assess local need. This has led to the development of care and support plans that build on peoples' existing skills and networks, which in turn produce better outcomes for service users and carers.

The commissioning of services also needs also to follow an asset-based approach. Commissioners, instead of seeing service users and their communities as problems to fix, need to commission services which recognise that people, either on their own or as part of a wider network, are capable of contributing to their own care and improving the care of others. In the words of the Care Act guidance itself, they need to commission ‘local health and care and support services that together with community assets meet needs.’

In practice, this means that commissioners involve service users in defining local need and commissioning plans that build on the best local resources, networks and infrastructure available. It means developing service specifications for new services which use local networks and volunteers, saving money but also improving the experience of service users. And it means commissioning services that encourage end users to help shape and develop services co-productively with providers rather than being treated as passive recipients of care.

Proponents of asset-based approaches turn the traditional meaning of the word on its head by making it clear that all communities, even the most deprived, possess things of value; skills, social networks, community centres. Such strategies unlock these resources and use them to build better care and support services – and you can’t doubt the value of that.

Follow Ewan on twitter: @ewandking

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  1. Comment by Neil Stillwell posted on

    Hi. My name is Neil Stillwell & I have been saying this very thing since receiving care more than 10 years ago. It's nice to know that my own personal efforts are now being widely accepted as fact & would love to speak to someone on advocacy & the need to ally these services in communities not just locally, but on nationwide basis. As a former service user I'm well aware of the pit-falls that often occur but, in time, all these things can be ironed out & people will be able to have a better feeling of self-worth. What do you think?

  2. Comment by Pearl Baker posted on

    Three members of our family cleaned our son's flat of disgusting rubbish filth you have never seen before, and still not finished, mildew, and the most disgusting bathroom you have ever seen.

    I have returned today to try and clean the bath and wash basin. The curtain rail the LA put up fell down.

    My son's flat is by no means the worse I have ever seen, only yesterday I visited the flat of another tenant, supported by West Berkshire Council, and the Private Management Company to provide care and support. This lady cannot manage on her own and wishes to return to Residental Care, she gas no Social Worker, No CPN, No Psychiatrist, only a visit to her GP to receive a 'jab' on her 'bum'.

    Rats in the roof, smell so much, the onsite staff no longer work from this office, what about the residents who live under the same roof.

    When will the DOH and the Government have a mechanism in place to stop this ever happening in the name of care.

    'Follow my Journey for Mental Health' which will take place outside Parliament on the 5th January 11-3.30 the photos tell all, my journey will continue to No10 at 3.45.

    The Election is looming, let's see how many of you reading this comment actually come to visit the people who care.

  3. Comment by Patrick Graham posted on

    Good to hear,
    I have been working on developing the principles of a strengths based approach in Gloucestershire via Local Area Coordination, piloted in two districts, and coordinated work with the Barnwood Trust. Their funding, training and support for community builders, and work on dementia friendly communities, taps into that massive dominant caring resource that has nothing to do with the statutory sector: the community.

    One point on the terminology:-
    Like many people I have assoicated the idea of strengths with skills when it comes to individuals. I have since learned from more experience that it is better to see people's "passions" as their strengths in this context.
    They may, for example, have a reputuation as a great party organiser but actually dislike that as a job in which they had to develop skills for some prior reason. A passion is something that lights their fire and when we base our connecting of people on this basis, the energy increases in a virtuous circle - whereas it is not sustainable if it is a skill that is being used reluctantly.

  4. Comment by Lorna Easterbrook posted on

    I know it''s common to offer cups of tea at difficult times in life, but I'm not sure that's what the Beveridge Report covered ..... Ah, the perils of auto correct (or auto corrupt, as it wishes to describe itself)

  5. Comment by Dr Felix Ugwumadu posted on

    Our Greatest Asset is Ourselves
    It is sad that politics and political rhetoric have polarised health and social care industry and the emphasis is geared towards business approach rather than a welfare services. I strongly believed that “our greatest asset is ourselves” and this inter-related to the “Big Society Agenda”, which is not a new perspective however, it’s good to redesign and repackage the service framework. The pressures within health and social care sectors meant we have to see things beyond the four parameters of the wall and seek help from universal services, given the growing older people population and their increasing demand for care. On the other hand, family reciprocity seemed a thing of the past, but should have been one of the pillars that hold social care and community wellbeing. On reflection, family system is shrinking to smaller units yet, we are now having wider forms of family circle such as the “Composite” family system (half-brothers /sisters, step mother/father), that could be tapped into in order to alleviate pressures on social care. In view of the present circumstances and increasing demand on formal care workers, we could harvest the skills, experiences and wide-ranging knowledge that family members have. The Care Act (2014) undoubtedly would intensify pressures on health and social care systems. Thus, it is imperative to involve universal services as part of the apparatus to deliver care in future. My opinion is for health and social care to merge with a view to develop micro and macro health and social care interventions and pool budget capable to maximise the strengths of the Big Society agenda.