Dorset County Council
Dorset County Council is home to the Adult and Community Services Team.
The area is also administered by six smaller authorities that have their own District Councils.
The team comprises of both social workers and occupational therapists (OTs) who work very closely together. The core work carried out by the OT service involves assessments for care packages, carers assessments but the main aim, as supported by the Care Act 2014, is to ensure service users can stay as independent in their own homes for as long as possible. The team therefore focus on ways to reduce dependency on complex care packages that might not be needed or may be counter- productive. Each year they handle thousands of cases with up to 15 new cases each week including housing needs assessments.
With rising demand the team roles are both multi-faceted and often specialist in nature. Work involves reporting to courts on the support required for an individual to be able to return home such as for DoLS (The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards) appeals, relocating service users from residential care into other types of accommodation and assessments for hospital discharge. A specialist OT works and educates hospital-based OTs to ensure appropriate equipment is prescribed, that risk is assessed and that care is not “doubled up” where single-handed care approaches can be used.
Increasing pressure led to the creation of a new role: The Assessment and Support Co-ordinator (ASC) which combined the duties of an OT Assistant with a Social Worker Assistant and one of the first initiatives was to train their 48 newly-appointed ASCs as Trusted Assessors. This training would ensure that they were able to provide a better service to users and provide a good grounding in the basic elements of OT skills and assessment. The aim was to help them to become more confident in carrying out basic assessments, to be able to measure for equipment including grab rails and understand minor adaptations and daily living aids.
The Council chose to work with the Disabled Living Foundation, as leaders in the field of Trusted Assessors. They also felt that DLF provided best value in terms of course content and affordability.
They chose Trusted Assessor training at Level 3 for their staff so that they could conduct assessments within the client’s home and measure for and then prescribe minor equipment and adaptations. They were keen to use clinical reasoning and adopt a best practice approach which would further enable them to reflect and adapt future practice.
The course was carried out over 4 sessions with groups of 12 learners in each and was carried out at their own training centre.
As a result of training their staff to become accredited Trusted Assessors, the ASCs now have a better understanding of practical assessments and how to use those assessments to improve the lives of the older and disabled residents that they visit. Confidence has increased in both understanding and measuring for appropriate equipment and ASCs are able to identify risk and report it accurately to seniors. Learners appreciated the practical nature of the training and now find that small aids are often the solution.
Dorset are now able to focus on ensuring care is appropriately prescribed and OTs are able to concentrate their efforts on more complex cases, confident that they have staff that can assess minor needs and refer to them when needed.
The challenges for Local Authorities mean they have to make the best and most efficient use of the resources they have available. For Dorset this has meant developing their staff to provide a more professional, holistic provision to service users.
Dorset is very focused on helping residents to have a good quality of life. By helping them to maintain independence and ensuring that they are safe and able to stay in their own homes for as long as possible they are achieving this.