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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

'We now have a golden opportunity to work together'


Better housing options and care interventions are the key to improving people's independence, reducing the burden on health services and saving money argues Sandie Keene, director of adult social services at Leeds City Council and president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.

Sandie KeeneMost of you will have seen the so-called Barnet ‘graph of doom’, which predicts that by 2030, all local authorities will be spending all of their money on adult social care and children’s social services, with no money left for anything else. Not everyone subscribes to that graph but the future-mapping we have done in Leeds presents a similar recognition that we do have a major problem.

In  response, we all need to be focused on driving up efficiency when spending public money, whether that’s in care, support, telecare or reablement. To do this everyone working in public services needs to understand the problem and work for a solution.

Often our agendas are not the same but we now have a golden opportunity to view the central issue of funding from our different perspectives and work together. Having agreed to do that, I’d hope we’d also agree that managing within the budget and trying to squeeze out as much as we can to improve services more cost effectively is our first priority.

I believe the key is improving people’s independence and reducing their overall reliance on services through both better housing options and better care interventions. A big part of this is developing new partnerships and the first of these is with the public. They are assets, and part of the solution, and should not be seen as the problem.

In Leeds we’re looking at social investment bonds in terms of building community capacity and community-based solutions, reducing problems of isolation, increasing self-help and community empowerment – and reducing reliance on the public purse for support.

Public sector enterprise is similarly important because more than ever we need to be more imaginative in a sector not usually known for being ‘fleet of foot’ in terms of problem solving.  We need to be more creative and look at new ways of doing things, whether it’s about housing or care, or about public and private sectors coming together in different ways.  It’s really about the public sector becoming more enterprising and the private sector becoming more civic, with both having a well-embedded sense of social responsibility. 

For example, there are what’s termed ‘living labs’ based around companies supporting local communities. Here, the company tests out its new ideas within its local community – a kind of free, local market-testing. This creates a dynamic whereby a local population can support the development of new technology, while the company that is profiting from it can then feedback, in kind, into the community. We are also investing in social entrepreneurs, people who have good ideas that can fly, and giving them small amounts of money to develop their ideas and grow businesses.

We are developing our older people’s strategy, particularly looking at population and growth figures. We now have a development plan for each community in Leeds in terms of housing and using resources more effectively. You only have to look at the learning disability populations that are still inappropriately placed in outdated units to know that we need planning - wholesale planning - to develop new housing options. In Leeds we have a partnership with a social landlord so tenants can use community-based resources and take up their places in localities and neighbourhoods as full citizens. I would always argue that whatever the subject or sector, planning together will deliver the best outcomes.

Of course, we also know that we need to be looking at the next level of assistive technology. The evidence is irrefutable and we need to press ahead and develop the next generation of telehealth solutions that will make a difference in these environments. In Leeds we have a concept of an assistive technology hub.  It means people will be able to test out what’s available now and play a part in developing for the future. It’s the perfect example of a ‘living lab’, through which we can stay ahead of the game instead of behind it.

The future is to innovate, innovate, innovate, pushing the boundaries of what we know and exploring the territories of what is possible.

Housing and health

This is the second in a series of housing and health blogs from CIH and telecare and telehealth specialist Tunstall Healthcare. Look out for a report on the joint CIH/Tunstall summits held at Housing 2013 which is due to be published later this month.


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