How can care homes deliver personalised support on a budget?


We all know times are tough in health and social care. Budgets are tight, the population is ageing, and resources are stretched. Despite this, legislation (like the Care Act) and policies such as the NHS 5 Year Forward View call for better, more individualised support. Professionals want to raise standards, to provide the best for the people they care for, but are finding it increasingly difficult to do so in a field where they can feel they are fighting a losing battle, as shown by high attrition rates.

There’s no doubt that increased budgets and resource provision would relieve some of this pressure, but in light of the current political landscape, this isn’t likely to happen in the near future. So how can we provide better support for those who need it?

We need to activate people’s relationship networks

The idea of using communities to provide alternatives to paid support isn’t new. In fact, it used to happen as a matter of course. However, the ABCD Institute says:

‘In the past when a person had a need they went to their neighborhood for assistance. But this has shifted today to the belief that the neighbor does not have the skills to help them, therefore we must go to a professional for assistance.’

From our work with Community Circles, we know that this goes further than just neighbours. Even friends and family can feel impotent when a loved one goes into a care home, feeling that whatever they might do to help might actually be somehow wrong. They can also feel that they’re ‘stepping on the toes’ of the professionals who work at the home, instead of knowing how to work together to provide a collaborative care experience.

Reversing a trend

This tendency to assume professional help is the only way is a cultural and societal shift. It’s happened over decades as the way we live, play and interact with each other has changed. It’s not easy to change attitudes on a national scale, so we need to think about ways to facilitate communities coming together to help people who need it.

Community Circles are ideally built for this because they:

  • Remove the need for the person to ask for help. This is done by the Circle facilitator, and we find that we’re almost always met with a warm response. People genuinely want to help, but just aren’t sure how!
  • Provide a structure in which people can come together and talk about what really matters to the individual at the centre of the circle, making sure that they’re truly understanding their needs and helping in a way that best meets them.
  • Give groups a forum in which they can connect with each other, which helps them to coordinate and make sure that they’re working in a way that’s efficient, effective and tailored to the level of support they can realistically provide.
  • Use person-centred thinking tools to identify the assets and gifts that already exist in the group and the community, enabling everyone to contribute in a way that meets the needs of the person and provides the most value to their life.

Instead of driving a national cultural change, which is a mammoth task, a Community Circle just provides a simple framework in which we can enable communities to work together towards a common purpose. The model we use to create this framework is resource light, and as a result delivers value that is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Supporting professionals to support others

Even with the best intentions, we know that it is simply not possible for most care homes to provide a large amount of personalised support given the current budgetary and time constraints on their staff. In a best case scenario, residents might have access to one or two days of personalised time per month to be supported to do what they want to do. This is great, but activating a community can help us to provide more.

This does, of course, mean that we are talking about a subtle shift in the role of a care home professional. It’s about working in a way that enables people to work with them, rather than taking on the full burden of looking after someone themselves. For some staff, this might feel like a departure from the reason they joined the profession in the first place. In our opinion, it’s simply an extension of it – a way to provide excellent, personal, top-quality care experiences, but in an environment where they’re not alone in doing it.

What next for Community Circles and care homes?

We’re seeing some fantastic stories emerging from our work in care homes, and are going to be sharing more over the coming months particularly through our work at EachStep Blackburn.

If you’re involved in care homes and would like to know more about how Community Circles could support you to deliver personalised care in a time of tight resources, just get in touch with us. We’d love to talk to you about how we can help.