The brief

A recently appointed S151 Officer in a local authority commissioned us to review and suggest improvements to the Council’s Financial Support Services (FSS) team, based in the Finance service. The team had previously been based in the Adults Social Care (ASC) Directorate, providing financial and support services to colleagues.

The remit of the FSS team was subsequently expanded to manage and deliver services including Community Brokerage Services, Direct Payments, Social Care Finance Support and the management of Appointeeships and Deputyships services. At the same time, the team was also transitioned to the Finance Department under the remit of the S151 Officer to improve financial stewardship and control.

Whilst C.Co was commissioned to identify opportunities for efficiencies across all the teams, evidence suggested that it was the “Appointeeship Unit” (AU) team, which required the greatest and most immediate transformation by the start of the next financial year to change policy, practice and financial performance.

We conducted external benchmarking, with geographical and statistic neighbours. This highlighted that this was a highly resourced team with a very paternalistic approach to appointees and deputyships. This was driving a high case load, whereas many other authorities had transitioned to alternative delivery methods and approaches.

A key contributory factor to the high case load was the outdated referral processes to the AU team by the Care Management service in ASC. This meant that the Council was often not clearly acting in its role as “service of last resort”. For example, it was handling cases which could actually be managed by family members, which is recommended for  improved user outcomes. This was being driven by a lack of responsibility in decision making in ASC, as there was a separation between the decision and the impact, including the financial impact.

For the AU team, the key focus was ensuring that the Council acted in accordance with its stated remit and to calculate savings arising by implementing the changes, with no authority to question ASC decisions. It was also clear that the cost of delivering the service was significantly more than the income received. Key considerations of the review included:

  • Process transformation, activity and resource reviews
  • Improved awareness of roles and responsibilities
  • Identify training needs and support requirements
  • Consider ways to reposition the relationship between key stakeholders
  • Clear financial and activity analysis.
Our approach

The approach throughout was highly collaborative, with staff engagement at the forefront. On-site engagement, as well as desk-top reviews and research, formed part of the evidence base underpinning the findings and recommendations.

The diagnostic phase provided a superb base on which to commence the project, including understanding its areas of focus for C.Co’s review. It also provided an awareness of the key stakeholders, their roles and the, sometimes fractured, relationship between the key services. The latter was particularly important, given the AU team’s historic remit and the changes needed to progress this relationship.

The first step was to work with the FSS Manager and senior stakeholders in ASC to agree a cross functional team to support the project. The former and her service leads had supported the diagnostic phase, but it was also critical to further engage and agree project priorities with colleagues in ASC.

C.Co worked closely with colleagues to identify what worked well, what could be improved and why this was happening. We reviewed policies, procedures, processes, digital systems and the collaboration between the AU and ASC teams.

The key outcome confirmed that the case referral process required significant change to control the “front door”, which would manage case volumes and facilitate the transition to the Council acting as the service of last resort. Meetings with staff were held and workshops were arranged with AU and  Care Management to capture, document and discuss the end to end referral process and, critically, to agree improvements.

As we have significant experience in and knowledge of Governance, Risk Management, Assurance and Finance, we were well placed to conduct the project engagement activities. We also have specific expertise and recent experience and knowledge of the ASC environment, specifically recent experience in delivering change across Appointeeships and Deputyships services.

During the project, budget pressures heightened as part of the development of the Council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy. The S151 Officer then requested us to incorporate a high level  options appraisal for the service to become self-funding and the phasing of the options.

Following our review, we developed an action plan for managers in collaboration with the FFS and ASC teams. This provided a collaborative approach to delivering efficiencies and included changes to systems and processes, and roles and responsibilities and it provided recommendations for cultural change, in line with the Council’s values and behaviours, to facilitate the repositioning of  the key relationship.

The outcome

By getting the ‘brilliant basics’ right, the Council is in a strong position for delivery of change and to transition to implement transformational change. The financial savings, arising from the review of Appointeeships and Deputyships, were calculated to be in the region of £800K over the period of the Medium Term Financial Strategy.

Our collaborative approach, coupled with delivery of quick wins, enabled the organisation to free up resource to focus on delivering a more efficient service through more reliable and streamlined processes, increased productivity and enhanced focus on performance.

We collaborate with senior colleagues to develop the changes needed to the underlying cultural behaviours, as this is key to the success of the project. These changes cannot be achieved overnight but the collaboration helped their development and allowed colleagues to understand the importance of taking ownership and accountability.

The AU team was particularly motivated during the project and the Team Manager responded constructively to our queries and feedback delivered on site and during engagement sessions following the on-site activities.

The outcome was an agreed Action Plan set out in accordance with the core elements of our Brilliant Basic framework. This formed the change management framework for the Council and provided the S151 Officer with confidence that the fundamentals were being better managed, that people understood what was expected of them and took responsibility for delivering accurate and meaningful financial information.

Contact our team to ask about our Brilliant Basics Review and how we can help you to identify opportunities to improve financial fundamentals and ensure accuracy, efficiency, and compliance.