Reflections on the last decade
From my perspective there have been two big shifts in the sector. Firstly, the level and pace of outsourcing of social care services from the statutory to the private and, in particular, the not-for-profit sectors. Secondly, the rising expectation that the people using services should have a greater voice about what is delivered and how; that we start by assuming capacity rather than looking for what the individual cannot do.
Dimensions is a great example of a number of organisations joining up to deliver better together over the last decade. It is now a substantial national player committed to changing the lives of people with learning disability and autism. The rapid growth of Dimensions has meant that we have had to invest considerable time and capacity in building strong controls to ensure efficiency and quality. We can now use that sound base to take positive risks and work with staff, the people we support and families to research new ideas and models.
I have moved to an entirely non-executive portfolio working with boards across the not-for-profit sector, NHS and central Government. My passion for good governance is about creating secure space for innovation. Working across different bodies and sectors has opened up opportunities for me to do what I really thrive on – making connections between people, organisations and ideas to transform what social care can achieve.
Projections for the next decade
In the sector, investment in preventative services will continue to be outgunned by critical and acute health demands, in particular, despite efforts to shift this. Paid services will increasingly focus on those with the highest level/most complex needs. There will be a renewed energy in building informal community-led support built around networks as much as traditional organisational models.
At Dimensions, we will work more through partnerships and alliances based on shared purpose and values. We will leverage our size to enable the people we support and their families to have a more powerful voice to influence what really matters to them, including what we deliver. We will also add value to the sector by researching new models of support evaluated against the outcomes chosen by the people we support.
Regarding my career, I am already enormously enjoying the kinds of non-executive roles which define most people’s opportunities post paid-employment so I hope to be able to sustain this for some years to come.
Without strong, proportionate governance organisations waste energy and capacity on chasing the demands of commissioners, regulators and public expectation. A well-governed organisation can focus all this energy and capacity on working with the people it supports to transform what is possible.
My family, the exceptional colleagues I have worked with at all levels of the organisations I have been a part of, but in particular what the people we have supported have been able to achieve when their capacity, rights and choices have been properly valued.
The biggest lessons I have learnt are that the most significant opportunities to drive the changes I have really cared about have often been in the gaps between organisations. Also, investing in leadership at all levels is transformational.
Be brave and push the boundaries. Actively look for opportunities which push you outside your comfort zone if you want to continue to grow professionally and achieve more than your younger self would have believed possible.
Log in to read Helen Baker’s typical day. Subscription required.