In actual fact, I have three roles. The first is Director of Adult Social Services in Oxfordshire. Secondly, I have a role within the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) where I’m Director of Strategy & Transformation. And thirdly, I’m one of the two resources leads for the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.
It’s really interesting having the ability to look at things from three different perspectives. From the adult social care / local government perspective which is where I’ve come from. From the health perspective which I’m increasingly understanding better. And from the national perspective, maximising the resources available for adult social care, ensuring that they are used well and making sure that government and other national stakeholders understand the financial pressures facing adult social care.
I’ve been Director of Adult Social Services since 2007 (I moved across from being Director for Resources in Oxfordshire). This is the best job I’ve ever had – part of what really drives me is the contact you have with staff in social services, service users, carers, people who are providing services and professionals with a very different occupation.
It’s all really close to the provision of public services, that’s what I like. I get a lot out of the people I work with in health as well. Health and social care often support the same individuals.
Well actually it’s crucial. I trained with CIPFA, I've been a chief finance officer in the past.
Why finance training is important is because financial issues are right at the heart of decisions that are made for adult social care, such as best meeting someone’s social care needs in the most economical way with public money. How do we work out the costs of increasing demand, how big are those going to be? How do we think we might change services to manage those demands in a way which at the same time can be cost-effective?
Finance training is also integral to me being able to make a case nationally with the other resources lead and saying “we haven’t got enough money” for adult social care. Explaining that this will lead to some real difficulties for the services available and will have an impact on the health service.
As an accountant I've been involved in some really complicated issues which were professionally satisfying. But I think what I like best is being a manager. The reality of being a manager is that you don’t do anything on your own. What managers are there to do is support the people working for them so that they are in a position to make sure that the right services are in place.
So for me, what I feel proudest about is knowing that my team and I can manage a difficult issue. That may be coming up with a brand new service that is going to be much better and ensuring that it is in place; it may involve social workers who are managing a really complicated issue related to individuals who are risk and who need support in a way that’s appropriate.
It also involves listening to service users and carers and letting them know that you are hearing what they are saying. Telling them that you can’t promise a perfect solution, but also reflecting on it; what does that mean for us going forward in terms of what we do? And making sure that I share that with the managers commissioning services and social workers and occupational therapists providing professional advice and support.
My experience coming into adult social care, despite having worked in corporate financial roles and local authorities for 30 years, was realising how little I knew about adult social care. I think that’s a problem for adult social care as a whole, I think it’s a problem for the health service as well. The health and social care sector need to realise that those outside (or not using the services in a significant way) know very little if anything about how things work.
You’ve got people doing great jobs but most other people don’t understand what they are doing. In my current role I see many examples of misunderstandings between people within different areas (not just within social care and health) but people in different areas of social care and different areas of health.
I think it would help if people had a much greater understanding of what health and social care does. We could move away from the very simplistic and sometimes very inaccurate reports that exist within the media. This would allow us to focus on the real issues and think about the best way of tackling those issues in a way which recognises the financial pressures there are on the public sector but also make sure that we meet people’s needs in the best possible way.