HOUSING

Dealing with the issues of isolation

Natasha Langleben questions how many councils know how to apply to the Accelerating Reform Fund for Adult Social Care and asks if a portal promoting partnerships would help boost grant applications.

The Government has just announced its Accelerating Reform Fund for Adult Social Care (ARF) – a £42m fund which will be provided to consortiums of local councils, Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) and local community groups who are willing to try innovative projects aligned with the 12 priorities set out by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

Each consortium needs to fill in a fairly simple Expression of Interest (EOI) form with details of their two proposed projects (one of which must be in relation to unpaid carers). The fund is not competitive, and each consortium will receive an allocation of funding if the EOI is submitted on time with the necessary information. Each consortium will be allocated a sum of at least £300,000 for the first year. Sums are awarded in March 2024.

As the co-founder of a social enterprise set up to tackle isolation for older people, supporting them to remain in their own homes with vital companionship and support, we are perfectly positioned to be part of these consortium bids. The first priority set out by DHSC, is almost a verbatim description of our service: ‘community-based care models such as shared living arrangements… this could include schemes which match people needing care and support with someone to live in their home.'

I question how many local councils are aware of the process to apply for this fund and how many may be missing out on vital funding in trying to navigate the many grants available from the Government. There are always central Government bids, tenders and grants and they all have varying processes, some with very long complex procurement processes, and others as in this case, with a much easier and quicker process. But even for a grant such as this, which is relatively easy to apply to, the first part of the puzzle is to organise a consortium which involves not only partnering with neighbouring councils or ICBs but it is recommended that community and health organisations also form a part of this group.

In my experience, there is no framework in place to allow councils and ICBs to easily select appropriate partners who can help them deliver on proposed projects, removing the burden for service delivery from an already stretched council workforce. If I look at the ARF, there are 12 different priorities against which a consortium can apply and they must choose at least two innovation projects to deliver in order to fill in the EOI within an 8-10 week timescale.

Think how much easier it would be if they were already aware of community groups who want to deliver projects on behalf of the council and could fill in the EOI for them and lead on the innovation.

As an example, Two Generations has already carried out a similar adult social care reform project in Waltham Forest. It has placed an ambassador, seconded into the council for a 12-month period, to grow awareness of and build embedded referral pathways towards homeshare.

This is an early intervention and prevention option as a tool in the adult social care toolbox, delaying the need for social care packages, supporting with hospital discharge pathways and providing essential respite for unpaid carers. We are perfectly placed to deliver similar projects to a number of consortium across the country.

More specifically, Two Generations is talking to a number of councils and ICBS about its homeshare innovation pilots – which similarly to the above seek to carry out a transformational piece of early intervention work, across all the relevant services to put far greater focus on prevention. The testimonies received from householders who have been able to remain in their own home and enjoy their later life according to their wishes is very powerful.

This week sees the National Children and Adult Services conference – a key event for decision-makers, involving some very influential speakers such as Helen Whately, MP – minister of state for social care, Andrew Gwynne – the shadow minister for social care and Beverley Tarka – the president of the Association of Directors of Social Services.

As part of the conference there is a specific session on the older people's housing taskforce which includes looking at the taskforce's objectives to improve housing options for older people in later life. Many of these challenges are directly aligned with the vision of the ARF fund.

I would ask conference speakers and delegates to consider: if national Government wants to support local innovation and partnership working, it might be helpful to think how it can more easily support councils to apply for these grants. There might be many ways to do this. Could the creation of a portal to allow relevant community groups to partner with public sector organisations to fulfil project delivery lead to an uptake in grant applications and more positive outcomes for society? Just one possibility, but at Two Generations we hope to see more co-produced innovative reform between the public sector and community groups and we look forward to playing our part.

Natasha Langleben is COO of Live Twogether

www.Livetwogether.com

X – @twogenhomeshare

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