A View from the Top

Ann Gibbons is Executive Director of Care and Support at Metropolitan.

Reflections on the last decade

The reality of the last decade is that the demand for services has risen while public spending has fallen. The sector has seen a seemingly endless commissioning cycle of increasingly competitive tenders which have confused and unsettled service users and put support staff through the experience of TUPE again and again.

Many local authorities raised their eligibility criteria, arranging support only for adults with substantial or critical needs. The Care Act 2014 has introduced a single eligibility threshold, but it remains to be seen how this will work in practice. I think this legislation is as much about culture as it is about process and rules. For example, it defines the primary responsibility of local authorities as the promotion of wellbeing centred on the needs of the individual. It also makes prevention a statutory duty which is good news – we know that prevention at any early stage is far better than letting things reach a crisis point.

Projections for the next decade

One thing is for sure, there will be a huge increase in the number of people who will need some form of care and support.

The Care Act clearly puts housing back into the picture which is welcome as we have long-recognised that environment plays a vital part in recovery. The legislation should improve the integration of health, social care and housing; but its implementation will not be without challenges. Local authorities need innovative providers to help find solutions to the burdens of assessment and support provision with increasingly limited budgets.

Metropolitan is an advocate of collaboration in social care. We have established partnerships with NHS trusts and local authorities, particularly in mental health, to develop supported housing as an alternative to hospital and residential care. The shared goal is to provide cost-effective care pathways which foster enablement and independent living wherever possible. Having successfully completed a two-year turnaround plan, we have the firm foundations to further build and develop services to deliver these positive outcomes.

Insight

I have been involved in many change initiatives during my career. Far too often consultants and interims are brought in to ‘manage’ transformation through process change and endless workshops. In my experience this simply doesn’t work. I believe change has to be led, not managed. Good leadership should be measured by the ‘followship’ of those who work with you. If people aren’t coming with you, you aren’t changing anything.

Influences

Before I joined social care, I worked in hospitality and financial services. Ian Webster, a managing director at Whitbread when I worked there, inspired me simply because he was honest – sometimes really brutally honest. He talked about organisations putting their money where their mouths are – and that really stuck with me. For instance, in this sector, if we want to attract and retain bright, committed and skilled people, we have to invest in them.

Lessons

I attended a Disney Institute leadership course while I worked at Whitbread. The focus on creating a customer experience that will be remembered and valued, those ‘magic’ Disney moments, was a valuable lesson for me. The way they treated their colleagues also really taught me the importance of respect, because you can’t deliver an exceptional customer experience without delivering an exceptional experience for those who deliver it.

Advice

The only limitations on your career are your beliefs about them. This is an amazing sector to work in because it’s so diverse and challenging – nobody’s barred. You don’t have to have a degree in social care to be an executive director of care and support – you just need to have demonstrated through your work and achievements that you’re capable. If you’re a creative, passionate and organised person, you can bring a lot to an organisation and the people it serves.

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