Having worked in five Greater Manchester local authorities over the last 28 years, and in a variety of roles, I am now championing the opportunities available to people with learning disabilities.
My role at Oldham Council is relatively new. Working with inspiring people and having the opportunity to develop co-produced policy to transform social care in a joined up way across Greater Manchester gets me up in the morning and excited by the challenges ahead.
We’ve already made great strides in the devolution of social care. A brilliant example of this is the Greater Manchester Autism Consortium, a programme established to improve the way people with autism are helped to achieve their potential. All the clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and local authorities in Greater Manchester, without exception, contribute to the running costs of ensuring good practice carried out locally is disseminated efficiently across Greater Manchester.
Another example is the Greater Manchester Learning Disability Delivery Group which is tasked with putting together a clear programme of priorities to support people to maintain their independence in their local community. This means taking a co-produced, detailed approach which sets out how we can improve access to employment, housing and care needs in a much more person-centred way. It is a widely represented group, including people with learning disabilities, as over 9000 people in Greater Manchester have a learning disability. It is our aim that local people have their say and for local learning disability partnership boards to comment and act on our proposals.
One of the most frustrating issues for me, and one that still happens is that when an individual experiences challenges, we often respond in way that does not support that person’s long-term best interests. I want to ensure that we are more proactive in care planning, with contingencies in place for when a person finds their environment challenging. We want to develop an infrastructure in Greater Manchester to better support people proportionately when they face difficulties in life, and one that ensures people don’t have to move hundreds of miles away to be supported.
Integration is key to these aims. The combined skills across health and social care practitioners combined with an asset, strength-based approach is fundamental to ensuring we move away from siloed working. Good communication is essential, as is working in local neighbourhoods on an integrated basis to ensure people can maximise their independence and take control.
There are challenges ahead; individuals have many different views and perspectives and endeavouring to seek a consensus does take a little time. Overall this is a positive process as people actively engage and use their own experiences to influence positive change. We also need to join up the wider learning disability transformation agenda and we are making great progress, working with people from across health and social economies to achieve this aim.
The Greater Manchester devolution agenda has for first time enabled all Greater Manchester localities to bring together the expertise from a range of areas to pull together a vision – a collective understanding of the issues. Working with local people and coordinating a more clearly communicated set of objectives has been refreshing.
I work alongside some highly dedicated people who simply want to be supported to do a great job. Working with people who often find themselves with very challenging situations to overcome never ceases to make me feel humble I am fortunate to be doing a job I love and am inspired to work as part of a wider team to develop and deliver a vision. Making a difference and supporting people to help move this agenda forward gives me a tremendous sense of satisfaction and makes me feel that I am earning my wage.