Local Cornerstone: an enabling approach to social care

May 21, 2018

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By Edel Harris, Chief Executive of Cornerstone

Cornerstone is one of the largest social care providers in Scotland. We support 2,700 children, adults and families each year and our aim is ‘to enable the people we support to live a valued life, a life they choose’.

With the support of the Carnegie UK Trust and others we are implementing an ambitious strategy called ‘Local Cornerstone’ that challenges traditional ways of providing social care.

Through the establishment of the Cornerstone Foundation we are raising and distributing funds to enhance statutory provision and to do far more than we are contractually obliged to do.

Cornerstone has moved to a local branch structure made up of self-managing Local Care and Support Teams of up-skilled social care practitioners devolving autonomy and accountability to the frontline.

Power needs to be felt within local communities where one of the most intimate of transactions is delivered by people who are trusted to do a great job.  We are changing our culture to remove hierarchy, replace traditional management with a coaching approach and by stripping out unnecessary policies and procedures we are trusting people to do the right thing.  We only recruit and retain the very best people by hiring for values. We are improving staff retention by demonstrating our appreciation of the wonderful work our colleagues do and by allowing team members to manage their own workload.  By reducing our central overheads and as a result of a significant investment in technology we have managed to do all of this in a financially sustainable way.

Over recent years, with the emphasis on austerity and the resulting public service funding crisis, the social care sector in the UK has become an industry that in many cases has lost focus on the person requiring care and support.  Time and tasks have become the order of the day with often stressed, low paid workers following a schedule that has more in common with a production line.   The power often sits with the commissioners of the service who are under enormous pressure to work within very restricted budgets.  The trading of a commodity to the lowest bidder is commonplace and the price of that commodity including a decent rate of pay for the person delivering the care, has become increasingly rare.   Our new model ensures that through pay and other terms and conditions of employment there is a genuine demonstration that we value social care as a profession.

Co-production and commissioning for outcomes is common language within the sector however we rarely see this happening in practice.  Through the introduction of Local Cornerstone we are working with some brave and forward thinking Health and Social Care Partnerships who are willing to relinquish some power and to take some risks in testing alternatives to traditional commissioning.

Most importantly we can see the difference this new way of working is making to the lives of the people we support.

Our Storyteller in Residence is collecting stories to inspire others to change and in a series of blogs, written for the Carnegie UK Trust we will share some of these stories with you.

“Having worked for another care provider for 10yrs, I felt in a rut.  The skills I had weren’t being utilised.  I attended an interview at Cornerstone and the company strategy was a real eye-opener.  My team members and I feel so on-board with what is happening and we are looking forward to achieving our personal, team and company goals.  I feel more involved and challenged again and I can’t wait to be part of influencing how care is going to be delivered in the future”

(AM, Team Member, Fife).

The Trust is supporting Local Cornerstone as part of our Enabling State programme of work. We hope the learning from this innovative approach will provide insights for others seeking to move toward more enabling ways of working.

Find out more about our Enabling State programme here.

Our What Do Citizens Want? research highlights the profound impact that the relationship between practitioners and the people they support has on wellbeing and some of the challenges practitioners face.