How a social work pilot scheme is helping people in Calderdale

Coun Bob Metcalfe with staff at Better Lives at 42, Market Street, Halifax
Coun Bob Metcalfe with staff at Better Lives at 42, Market Street, Halifax

A social work pilot scheme is delivering for clients – and saving council cash too.

The Community Social Work Practice (CSWP) – also known as Better Lives – opened its doors in shop space next to Halifax Borough Market in May 2017 with a brief to provide early intervention in cases including housing and benefit inquiries.

Early intervention is a policy across the council as when it is done well it benefits both citizens and can produce more satisfactory results less expensively than if a situation is allowed to escalate.

Members of Calderdale Council’s Adults, Health and Social Care Scrutiny Board were asked to comment on the service, which is aimed at reaching people who are not currently known to social services and connect them to their community.

Staff offer support which enables people to remain in control of their own lives, be experts of their own conditions an circumstances, to make positive choices, to take risks and be supported to draw on their own strengths and existing networks of help and advice.

The service saves the council money through early intervention, preventing, delaying or reducing the need for more formal care.

And outreach drop-in services have also been provided at venues ranging from bus stations and supermarkets to the atrium of Calderdale Royal Hospital.

Coun Bob Metcalfe (Lab, Town), Cabinet member for Adults, Health and Social Care, told councillors that although building work had taken longer than anticipated, the scheme, of which he had always been supportive, had a great location with visitor numbers increasing

The briefing report to councillors said: “Problems are easiest to tackle in their early stages, before they become entrenched and by addressing them we can create the conditions for a more equal society which will impact positively across a range of outcomes.

“The data we have to date identifies that there is a need for citizens to access support in a timely manner which can prevent and reduce escalation of their situation.”

The walk-in service at Market Street, Halifax, is run by a team of social workers and service co-ordinators, with no appointments needed.

The service also took referrals given them by the Gateway to Care service, resulting in the waiting time to have a case allocated being reduced.

General inquiries made to the service have included issues about heating, counselling, utility debt, landlord issues, help with understanding official letters, domestic abuse, health matters and what help is available.

Benefit, home care and carer inquiries are the next biggest categories.

In terms of last year and the current council year which ends next April, the service has cost less than the amount budgeted for – underspent by £97,059 in 2017-18 and expected to be under by £135,302 by next April, mainly due to reduced salary costs – though a rental concession which has helped expires in 2019-20.

And the current cost per intervention for addressing issues raised by people visiting the shop is £242 per person – less than half the £500 that a full statutory assessment costs.

The service dealt with around 1,300 inquiries from May 2017 to September this year.

As it has been “Halifax-centric”, pop-up shops were taken out across the borough by the team, including to Todmorden, Brighouse and the Beechwood Medical Centre in Ovenden, Halifax.

The board has asked for a more detailed report on the extent to which the project is helping deliver financial savings and also more information on the demographics of service users, including their ethnicity and which part of Calderdale they are from.