Co-designing adult social care

Adult social care in Torbay is on a radical transformation journey, focusing on a co-designed, asset-based approach that has evolved out of the fantastic community response to COVID-19.

Community, faith and voluntary organisations came together, alongside dozens of very small organisations and a myriad of volunteers. The council financially supported the sector and was brave about the ideas emerging from the partnership. 

A major achievement was the Community Helpline – a single point of access to help, including with food, debt advice, practical errands, and support with isolation. The focus was on neighbourhood solutions and identifying what everyone could potentially offer to others. 

It soon became apparent that most of the work of the helpline was promoting wellbeing, actively preventing some people needing adult social care (ASC).

As a result, the council made a shared commitment to develop the Community Helpline into an ‘open front door’, with anyone referring in. 

Torbay Food Alliance now uses the helpline for triage, so people seeking help with food get help with debt, mental wellbeing, and housing if they need it – thus addressing the underlying reasons for food poverty. 

Partners in Torbay are still developing the helpline, and the ‘telephony switch’ from the ASC call centre to the community and voluntary sector line isn’t planned until spring. However, the results so far speak for themselves. 

From a sample of 242 callers referred into the Community Helpline model, only 47 needed formal help from ASC, and a dual approach between statutory and community/voluntary services was found for them. 

Meanwhile, a fifth of people calling ASC are finding support and solutions from within their own communities, meaning they don’t need statutory help.

The community and voluntary sector isn’t free. The council is supporting the work from COVID-19 grants and a considerable commitment from the ASC precept, alongside funding the sector to develop projects where they identify gaps. 

Statutory services have to learn to really listen and be prepared to change their viewpoint. Co-design means accepting that someone else’s idea might be the best one.



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