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Solace blog

18th June 2018

Linking employment services to social care- why not?

Recently, I’ve returned from a visit to Copenhagen which was part of the module on the Solace Total leadership Programme. This was a great opportunity for reflections on the way local leadership happens in a different system.

Since my return, I have been considering what elements and approaches might have an impact on my current and future work.

One example stood out- the Danish way of combining social care services with employment services which came out of our visit to the Rodovre Kommune (Rodovre is a town which is part of the urban area of Copenhagen).

In Rodovre Kommune we were hosted by Director of Social, Health, and Employment Henrik Abildtrup. Just his job title tells you something- I don’t know about you but I have yet to come across a director of social care who also is the director of employment services. We had a presentation from Henrik on his areas of responsibility and discussion with his senior team members where we were comparing our respective challenges. By Henrik leading across these three different areas, he established an interrelationship that suggests by supporting an adult into work they can reduce the impact of the health and social care needs of the household. Henrik’s employment services cover those considered to be at high risk of unemployment and provide targeted support for them to access work.

The unemployment rate is higher among three particular groups in Denmark: immigrants and their descendants, newly graduated workers, and low skilled workers. Unemployment has a strong national focus; the impact of this has been recognised by the Danish government ever since the welfare state was established with more responsibility given to local areas like Rodovre to tackle. Henrik’s department allocates important resources to trying to move unemployed people back onto the labour market. This seemed to be done to save money in the long run and build stronger healthier communities (hence the link to social care and health departments).

In the UK, it feels as though we recognise the importance of those links, But I do not feel we go far enough to tackle this. I have been working within the Troubled Families Programme since 2013 and I have seen many great examples of how early help services across the country are tackling unemployment in households where there are many complex issues. I recall one family where the mother had mental health and had fled domestic violence, where her oldest son had been offending and her youngest two children had low school attendance. This family had intensive support from an early help practitioner and a Troubled Families Employment Adviser (who was seconded into early help service from DWP).

This combined intervention led to mum having the confidence to seek and secure employment, which in turn led to mum having better health and all the children were in school. She had a better relationship with her oldest who no longer saw her as ‘always ill but as a role model.’

Can you imagine our social care services having the same approach to supporting an adult into work? Imagine the outcomes we could achieve for those families that could keep them off acute services in the longer term.

I recognise using Henrik’s structure as standard practice in the UK may be a long shot- unless you’re in a small town authority like Chorley (a market town in Lancashire) which has a similar population to Rodovre. but I feel the principals are worth considering.

We recognise that may jobless families are held back by disadvantages such as problem debt, drug and alcohol dependency, and by domestic violence or mental health and how they impact on children’s outcomes. The Danish example makes me wonder how much more impact we could have in our social care services were more aligned to employment services. The Troubled Families Programme is already helping to bridge that within early help; however, I feel we should be aiming to get more of this approach within the social care sector too.

Please leave a comment or contact me for more information on the national Troubled Families Programme or anything raised on this blog, thank you.

by Alima Qureshi- Head of Spot Check and Data at MHCLG