Chair of the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) Lord Michael Bichard opens his debut blog with a bold statement: “As a commissioner I am satisfied if community-led groups can demonstrate that they are identifying, engaging and benefiting people at risk. That’s enough for me – that’s sufficient evidence to support a commissioning decision.”
I’m quoting Joe Fowler, director of commissioning at Sheffield City Council and speaker at SCIE’s session on community-led services at the National Children and Adult Social Care Conference (NCASC) in Bournemouth. Community-led services can help to break down the differences between people who need, and people who provide, care and support.
In contrast, statutory services can sometimes fail to provide what people want and need, whereas community-led services are often closer to the client, more trusted and can release the real potential in our communities. I think we need to reignite that potential.
For example, Kent-based community interest company Skillnet Group is a collective of people with and without learning difficulties, working together to achieve equality, supporting people to gain opportunities and become more independent. It runs co-produced social businesses – such as a music studio and café – offering paid employment and work experience to people with learning difficulties. The service was developed because young people didn’t necessarily want the services they were being offered, such as day centres.
When it comes to community-led support, this is about spreading out, not scaling up. These types of services are likely to remain small and local – but they can be numerous. The move towards genuine community-led support is about challenging the accepted wisdom of delivery of services – including statutory services. But it’s not about a simple replacement – it’s about complementary services.