Bolton Council had been aware that they had some resource and capacity issues in relation to Adult Social Care Finance (ASCF). The team had received various complaints and the key conclusions arising included the need to revise processes and procedures.
These recent findings, combined with a key management vacancy in the section and concerns raised following recent Internal Audits, triggered the desire to undertake a service review. This would cover the following teams based in the Financial Services Management Team:
- Finance and Income Assessment Team (FIAT) for residential, non-residential. DRE (Disability Related Expenditure) and DFG (Disabled Facilities Grants)
- Direct Payments
The Council faces further challenges around the planned national Social Care reforms, which are now going to be delayed until October 2025. Despite this delay, the Council is keen to be fully and appropriately prepared for these changes.
Therefore, the Head of Finance for Adults Social Care at Bolton Council commissioned C.Co to review the service and to identify options for improvement to allow the service to respond to the current challenges and social care reforms. The agreed objectives and scope of the review were to:
- Identify opportunities for improvement in operations, reviewed and developed end to end processes and resource structures.
- Identify any resourcing issues across the service.
- Recommend any further actions for improvements.
- Provide a report detailing scope, findings, competency framework, recommendations (including action plan for implementation), training and development plan and an expectations guide to be used in Performance Development Reviews for each grade within the Service.
The client was keen to transform its service and, specifically, to respond appropriately to the planned reforms, and requested the review to be conducted and finalised during July, August and early September 2022. Therefore, once appointed, C.Co responded at pace to the client’s requirements and assigned appropriately experienced and qualified resources.
The approach to the review throughout was highly collaborative, with staff engagement at the forefront of the approach. On-site engagement as well as desk-top reviews and research formed part of the evidence base underpinning the findings and recommendations. The review was tailored to suit the team’s specific needs and this involved the following elements:
- A desktop review of current policies, procedures, process documents relating the social care finance function, delivery structures and roles/responsibilities and reporting and assurance mechanisms.
- An onsite workshop and staff engagement sessions with the ASCF Team on 12th and 13th July 2022. C.Co prepared a detailed itinerary of activities for the on-site engagement to capture feedback from the team, including facilitated workshops, 121 desk discussions around the systems and processes used by the teams. This range of activities was planned and delivered at relatively short notice to achieve the agreed time frame.
- Benchmarking the Council’s services with its nearest neighbours and statistical comparators and a review of wider performance information and related complaints/feedback relating to the service.
- Conducting Discovery Meetings with Head of Legal and the Council’s Assistant Director (Safeguarding), which were followed and supported by on site meetings with Teams, which comprised:
- Introductory discussions with Head of Service and Team Manager
- Desk based observation sessions and 121s with Team Managers and the teams
- ASCF Group Workshops and drop-in sessions for everyone.
- Follow up discussions were held with all key stakeholders, including the Head of Legal, to discuss queries raised by the team.
C.Co was well placed to conduct the on-site engagement activities, as the team has significant experience in and knowledge of Governance, Risk Management, Assurance and Finance. In addition, C.Co has specific expertise in:
- Prior experience and knowledge of the ASCF environment
- Delivering training and supporting groups to transform service delivery, organisational governance and compliance
- Undertaking comprehensive analyses of current processes, assessing corporate risks and conducting options appraisals
- Reviewing reporting arrangements and designing appropriate structures for discussion with senior stakeholders
- Arranging effective stakeholder consultation exercises to design and agree future structures and processes for a range of organisations
- Using our experience and sector knowledge to inform best practice design implementation. This includes an understanding of local environment which includes the ability to adapt to the client’s HR processes.
The ASCF Team was highly motivated during the project and the client lead responded constructively to feedback delivered on site and during engagement sessions following the on-site activities. The outcome was an agreed Final Report, which set out the themes identified. This formed the change management framework for the service, which encompasses:
- How things are done (Processes and Systems)
- Who does them (Resourcing)
- How they are led (Leadership)
- The associated ‘how we do things around here’ (Culture and behaviour).
The recommendations from the review were structured against these themes to ensure consistency in messaging as well as providing structure to the changes. Opportunities for ‘quick-wins’ as well as more fundamental structured transformation were identified. A fundamental aspect of the recommendations was the consideration for the readiness for the Social Care Reforms.
The review identified some structural opportunities, which will ensure a heightened approach to managing safeguarding risks, a proportionate control framework, business continuity through bringing common functions together and multi-skilling staff, and sharing knowledge and information across the entirety of the service. These structural proposals were supported by revised Job Descriptions and a proposed Competency Framework to be implemented across the service.
The draft report was discussed and agreed with the client and the HR leads to facilitate the Final Report. By way of additional support, C.Co colleagues then presented the outcomes of the review and the next steps to the client lead, the HR lead, the Deputy Chief Executive (S151 Officer) and the Managing Director for the Integrated Care Partnership (the Council’s DASS). This discussion also included some wider suggestions for the service as it transitions to the new management framework.
Since the review, it is understood that the client has successfully implemented its new structure and the other recommendations in the report.
“Thank you to you both. Your support on this has been fantastic. We are now adopting the new ways of working with a new structure which has been approved and new processes are to be implemented in 2023 which will put us in a strong position for the challenges ahead. I look forward to working with you again in the future.”
Lisa Butcher, Head of Finance, Bolton Council