The Social Care Accolades 2009 to be announced

Fourteen organisations representing the very best of the social care sector in Wales will be competing to win an accolade on Thursday.

Dubbed the Oscars of the social care sector, the accolades recognise teams, partnerships and organisations which have helped transform social care services in their area. Lisa Jones profiles the work of four of the finalists.

Help for sexually exploited children

The Wales-wide Seraf programme was set up after research by Barnardo’s Cymru found that 184 children in Wales had been sexually exploited.

The study also showed a gap in public awareness around the issue.

The Seraf programme, set up by the children’s charity in 2006, works with children and young people aged 10 to 18 to get them away from abusive situations and give them coping strategies for the future. It also teaches other agencies to identify and help those at risk.

Jan Coles, children’s service manager for the Seraf programme, said: “The sexual exploitation of children has not been as high as it could have been on the public agenda.

“We usually work for more than a year with the children and young people who are referred to us.

“They have experienced abuse, including a grooming process, and it’s difficult to convince them you are not going to shaft them. This is expensive because it involves such intense work.”

The programme is now used across Wales to help care professionals improve the lives of children and young people who have been sexually exploited.

It has already been delivered to more than 2,000 people.

The initiative works directly with children and young people, as well as with care professionals. It also influences the policy agenda to ensure the needs of young people are kept to the fore.

Ms Coles said: “Public awareness is really important. These are children who have nobody to speak up for them. We try to bring their stories to the attention of people who can direct resources.”

Care leavers help influence policy

The future of care services in Wales is being shaped by the young people who have been most affected by it – care leavers.

A Caerphilly council project has drawn on the knowledge and expertise of care leavers in a bid to improve the experience for others.

Since the programme was set up in 2007, care leavers in Caerphilly have been involved in the staff selection process, helping to recruit seven of the nine members of the council’s leaving care team. They have also influenced policy.

The care leavers meet on a regular basis and have also taken part in an annual conference themed to target different areas of the children’s care sector.

Through a series of cafe-style workshops, they have also directly influenced policymaking.

This work culminated with the young people leaving the care system being asked to participate in the 2008 children’s services conference.

It was decided that the most effective way of driving forward how the care system is operated was to gather the views of a wide range of people, from senior managers to young people who have been through the care system.

Judith Pritchard, Caerphilly council’s cabinet member for social services, said: “The partnership has allowed those young care leavers involved in the initiative the opportunity to grow in confidence, as well as develop a range of skills and knowledge.

“The young leavers have improved the development of services both directly and indirectly and we are delighted that they are being recognised for all the good work they have done.”

Film helps prevent elderly having falls

Every month the Welsh Ambulance Service receives more than 20,000 calls about people over the age of 65 who have fallen.

As a result about 400 hospital beds every day in Wales are occupied by older people who have suffered a fall.

Falls affect older people both emotionally and physically. And statistics show that 7% of older people who have fallen die within 30 days of being admitted to hospital and up to 50% die within a year of their fall.

Torfaen council has produced a safety film – Falls Costs Lives – in a bid to save thousands of people’s lives.

The film was devised by Anthony Arcari, who is the health and safety manager of Bron Afon Community Housing, after his great-grandmother died of a fall-related injury.

“I was granted the funding to produce a safety film and decided that this was the most urgent issue,” he said.

“The film has been a huge success and helped more people than we could have imagined.

“Our film promotes what can be done to prevent falls and works to reduce these figures.”

The project took eight months to complete and cost £21,000 to produce – the cost of managing one hip fracture, according to Torfaen Local Health Board statistics.

Judges for the 2009 Social Care Accolades said: “The safety film is an excellent learning tool demonstrating how to reduce and prevent falls in elderly people.

“It has helped educate and train the care workforce as well as inform people of how to keep themselves safe.”

Since its launch in December 4,000 copies of Falls Cost Lives have been distributed across Wales. It will be used by the Gwent Association for the Blind, and there are plans for further health and safety films to be made.

Ceri’s Family

CERI’S Family is a “virtual family” devised by Denbighshire council to help people access the help they need.

Each of the virtual family members, who are aged from two to 81, is designed to reflect the needs of groups within the community who have traditionally been hard to reach and are more likely to have experienced inequalities in the healthcare system.

In many cases, local service-users themselves have been consulted in drawing up the family members’ profiles.

Ceri’s Family has been described as the “golden thread” linking all leading strategies and plans.

Priority themes for Ceri’s Family focus on carers, children, young and older people, plus those with learning disabilities, mental health needs and physical and sensory impairments.

The Social Care Accolades judges described Ceri’s Family as an example of excellent teamwork and have praised it for giving people a better understanding of the different health needs in society.

And this is not the first time that Ceri’s Family has been shortlisted for an award – it was highly commended in the health and wellbeing category of the Local Government Chronicle awards.

Sian Bennett, health improvement officer at Denbighshire council, said developing a profile for each family member was useful in helping policy strategists ensure their work was suitably targeted.

But the family was also proving useful in other aspects of council work.

She said: “It brings a strategy to life. For example, the character of Spud is a looked-after child and it was developed by other looked-after children.

“It helped them talk about issues they didn’t previously want to talk about. By talking about their virtual character, it desensitised the issue.”

And Pauline Dobb, the council’s cabinet member for health, social care and wellbeing, said: “Communicating health issues can be quite a complex task and wvery often people struggle to understand.

“We wanted to break down these learning barriers and enable people to understand more easily.

“Ceri’s Family provided the perfect opportunity for this. Each family member is tailor-made to a section of society, making it easy to relate to them and for us to target different people.”