C.Co Director, Sanjeet Bains reflects after day 1 at this weeks National Children’s and Adult Social Care conference in Manchester and the value of true collaboration in driving change.


This week I had the opportunity to attend day 1 of the NCASC 2018 Conference in Manchester talking all things good, bad and ugly about Adults and Children’s Social Care and Health.

From all I’ve been hearing about the challenges facing the sector, the demand pressure, lack of funding, challenging partnerships, prevention vs. crisis management etc etc it’s interesting how the solution (and more often than not the challenge) for so many transformation journeys comes back to collaboration: at a strategic level across organisations and with people closest to the coal face services – the service users, carers and staff.

The opening address by the ADASS president summed it up nicely, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation is required in the sector. The system needs to focus on the person/carer/service user/citizen as opposed to the form of organisations. The challenges that the sector faces today, whether that be in older people’s demand, acute or community pressures, homelessness, poverty, mental health, carer breakdown etc etc cannot be solved by the efforts of one organisation, department or function alone.

For me, the starting point was to understand what we mean by collaboration. Mistakenly, we often thin that, to communicate, to engage, or to consult means collaborating. But for me, these don’t scratch the surface of true collaboration. To collaborate is something more fundamental, it is something deeper – it is about coming together to solve a problem, its joint working, joint ownership, mutual respect, trusting relationships, commitment to change, listening and being listen to. Collaboration is about shedding pre-conceived ideas and having an openness to co-operate and compromise to achieve a shared objective – its about believing in a change we are going to enact and being ready for the ups and inevitable downs. When collaboration works, we celebrate our successes, yet, often on transformational journey’s, even with the best ideas, processes, investment and intentions without successfully collaborating with our partners, service users, customers, staff we fail to achieve our ambition.

“Coming together is the beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success”  Henry Ford.

Collaboration is more than just about systems and processes that force us to work together – it is about culture and leadership that places collaboration at its heart. In the context of social care it’s a culture of sharing control and ultimately power – with “system leaders” and those who use services, carers and the staff and organisations delivering care. Change at scale and pace addressing the multifaceted issues facing social care means sharing with partner agencies, such as health, housing, adults, childrens, fire, probation, police, leisure and transport, providers, as well as with local people and communities. These are all pieces of the same puzzle. It would be short-sighted to look at an individual piece of the puzzle, as you’ll never see the whole picture. Leaders need to work more collaboratively, getting away from crude power structures and genuinely engaging everyone in the design and delivery of care and support.

At the level of individuals, this involves a genuine willingness to listen – and act upon – the experiences of those who require care and support and the staff who deliver services. Being open and honest with people about the issues that need to be solved and giving them a chance to come up with a solution. People understand what they need but too often that intelligence and knowledge has been underutilised, undervalued or ignored – they know the realities of day-to-day life in our services and operations, so they’ll tell you what will and will not work; what doesn’t make sense; what’s a waste of time and money.

Collaboration provides the opportunity to harness the crucial input which staff, service users and their carers can make to service design and delivery, going well beyond feeding back their view of their own care and support – enabling people to influence the range and availability of services, encouraging them to help design those options and taking their reaction to services as a key input to making them better.

On a practical note, it is about the ‘voice of the customer’, whether that be the child, older person, adult with learning disability, carer, mental health user etc being ever present in every decision taken, whether that be a; Policy change; Business case for change; Service review or redesign; New commission or procurement, to name a few. This is true co-production and the key quality marker for change.

Working together for the benefit of those closest to service, and joining up services across organisational boundaries remains a key challenge for system leaders. An individual’s journey or experience is rarely confined to social care or health or housing. People don’t live in silos – they live rounded lives with multiple and changing requirements, wishes and needs. Collaboration is recognising this and act upon it – thinking about care journeys from the users point of view and seeking to make such journeys as simple and straightforward as possible, regardless of how often the individual moves between different organisations.

At C.Co, we genuinely believe in putting people at the heart, and head, of change; collaboration is one of our fundamental values. Not only will it give you better results, but, as human beings, it’s also the right thing to do.