Councillor Ruth Bush outlined the need for ‘real care’ at Westminster Council’s Annual Budget meeting;
“More and more, when we meet people at our surgeries, or at residents’ events, we find they have not only what professionals call ‘the presenting problem’ but also an air of bewilderment. It increasingly turns out that they have other problems and they don’t know where to go for help – they have begun to feel overwhelmed and simply don’t know where to turn. Everything to do with the Council seems to be chopped up in bits. It’s often possible to get them aids or assistance with a specific problem – the Council has commissioned some very good providers. But these things or one-off advice are often not enough: there’s a real need for a more holistic approach to provision.
When I was first elected in 2005, the then Director of Adult Services, Julie Jones, told me of her commitment to getting staff out of their silos. This commitment has been repeated by a succession of senior officers ever since, and the new Chief Executive made a similar commitment to us when he arrived. But I suspect this will not be possible, if the Council retains its commitment to being a commissioning council, unless Westminster – and theTri-Borough – figure out a different approach to commissioning and work out how to commission a complete, wrap-around social care service. I understand from my colleague, Cllr Hug, that floating support workers are available to assist social housing tenants with mental health problems who may be in danger of losing their tenancies. We would look to develop a more extensive version of such provision, to help people talk through their concerns, think aloud, and so sort out their problems – even if – and this is key – it wasn’t at all clear at the outset what those problems were and exactly what was troubling the person.
And what sort of person would we be recruiting to do this work? The Prime Minister exhorts nurses to nurse with compassion: I believe he is wrong: ‘compassion’ is too profound a response to be required in anyone’s job description. Even ‘empathy’ in its deepest sense is probably too much to ask. What is required, as David Hogarth wrote in a recent article, is, simply, kindness. Westminster has many kind members of staff – both directly and indirectly employed. But however dismal the financial situation is, they need a structure which encourages this kindness.”