Monday, July 6, 2009

Red Light Flashing

As I have said before, this job takes me into some interesting places. Yesterday it was into the home of Lilly, a lady in her 80s who is using a personal budget (PB). Historically, Lilly just got services sent into her home. Now she has to manage the money and can, in theory at least, decide who and how that service is delivered.

Which is where we come in. Carolann, our Support-Planner, to be specific. Carolann is working with Lilly to help her to identify and plan for what she wants. This means working as a mixture of advocate (ensuring her voice is heard) and broker (helping her think through how she might use any remaining cash to make her life better).

I believe this type of service is the future of Speaking Up and (if we merge) Advocacy Partners. Not today or tomorrow but in perhaps five to ten years time. For this is way the world is going. People like Lilly don’t just need advocacy but a mixture of support, preferably all from the same trusted person. The old boundaries are coming under increasing pressure as the potential of new hybrid services is realized.

This is new ground. Space we need to be in as the next decade unfurls. It is, I guarantee, going to be a very hard few years for public services and charities delivering public sector contracts. Public spending through local councils and PCTs has gone up 50% in real terms in the last seven years. And it is now expected to drop quite significantly year on year. Not back to 2002 levels but quite a way. Every single seminar or presentation I attend as CEO is saying the same thing: Red Light Flashing.

The challenge for us at Speaking Up is immense. No less than to re-invent what we do and how we do it. If we fail to do this I believe that we will, very quickly, be overtaken by newer, cheaper operators. To avoid this we have to accept that we need to start working differently very quickly. Reshaping our processes in advocacy and Active Voices so that we can boost outcomes without spending any more. And make a shrinking budget deliver the same good.

How do we do this? Well, that is what I am hoping our staff and users can tell me. Getting more from less is never easy. It involves difficult choices, new ways of working and, yes, being more decisive about who needs our service the most.

These are never easy calls to make. But if our mission is to make it to the 2020s, we must not shy from this

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