In this blog, Dr Rachel Russell – our senior regional advisor, explores the development of a new workshop designed to improve collaboration between teams involved in the delivery of the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG).

The word collaboration appears 23 times in the Social Care white paper – People at the Heart of Care, and it is one of the themes that runs through the new Disabled Facilities Grant Guidance. And the following statement from the white paper makes clear why collaboration is a vital ingredient in the delivery of the DFG: 

‘To make sure that people can quickly access the adaptations they need, in a way that is coordinated with other practical support they receive, local co-ordination and collaboration is essential. ‘ 

Since the publication of these two documents, the regional advisors at Foundations have seen an increase in calls from local authorities looking for advice on how they can improve collaboration between their social care and housing teams.  

One such forward-thinking local authority approached Foundations earlier this year. The local authority had started the process of developing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the social care occupational therapy team and the adaptations service. MoUs are recognised as a helpful tool in developing a collaborative relationship between teams or services – This is because they:  

  • Establish a mutually beneficial collaborative partnership 
  • Outline the mutual goals of the collaboration 
  • Define the roles and responsibilities of those involved in the partnership  

For an MoU to be successful, it is vital that teams, and individuals in those teams, feel ownership of the document. So, to help the local authority with this, Foundations agreed to design and facilitate a day-long workshop.  

To design the workshop, we used Hansen’s (2009) barriers to collaboration to put together several activities that, while fun, challenged participants to think critically about how well they currently collaborate with those in other services involved in the DFG process. From our experience in Foundations, the main barrier to collaboration is what Hansen calls the ‘transfer problem’. This is when staff cannot transfer knowledge or information quickly from one place to another.  

The leading cause of this transfer issue is often the different IT systems used across housing and social care. However, this problem is also excerbated by communication barriers created by discipline-specific language alongside the different perspectives housing and social care bring to the issue of improving health and well-being.  

In one of the first activities, we got the participants to explore what they had in common. They were then challenged to produce a joint statement explaining the benefits of social care and housing working together for those who need adaptations. One group described the benefits as:

‘Improving lives and keeping people living in their own homes independently and helping people achieve their goals.’ 

In the second activity, we wanted the teams to better appreciate each other’s roles. To do this, we used a case study to get participants to discuss their individual responsibilities in either assessing, designing, or supporting the installation of the adaptations. During the activity, staff got an opportunity to discuss the benefits of working across the two services – alongside the challenges and barriers they also experience.  

At the end of the task, we used the collaboration continuum to ask the group to judge their current level of collaboration across the team. The continuum goes from teams with no systematic connections and who just co-exist – to teams where policies, processes and procedures are fully integrated. The group unanimously ranked themselves as ‘coordinated’ – which are teams that ‘systematically adjust and align work with each other for greater outcomes.’ 

In the final activity, we wanted to capture how the MoU could support a more collaborative approach to delivering the DFG. To do this, we asked the following questions: 

  1. What doesn’t work so well – what do we need to do less of? 
  1. What works well – what do we need to do more of? 
  1. What aren’t we doing – what else could we do? 

From the debate and discussion, participants identified that the MoU was needed to prevent unnecessary delays for residents by encouraging timely collaboration between teams, particularly for complex cases. Secondly, reducing tensions between teams by ensuring everyone takes responsibility for managing residents’ expectations. And finally, supporting a whole systems approach and thinking to the assessment, design, and delivery of adaptations. 

Since the workshop, Foundations has produced a report for the local authority  – with the key findings from the day, which they will use to develop their MoU. If you would like Foundations to facilitate a similar workshop or to discuss the other service improvements workshops we offer – usually free of charge, please contact your regional advisors – details of which can be found here