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Integration must start with the person

By Nic Crosby

This week we published two new papers looking at integration across services. Integration is heralded by many as the answer to limited and ever decreasing budgets as well as inefficient and duplicating systems but how many see it as a way of becoming more focused on people?

Well, we for one do. Both of these new publications place an emphasis on a person and family-centred approach to integration and during the course of our work with local authorities and other organisations we will be making this our mantra to ensure that services don't lose sight of 'the prize' and keep focused on people - rather than on process and systems.

The Care Act and the Children and Families Act introduce the most wide-ranging policy and practice reforms for more than 60 years. Integration will not be an option much longer. Delivering these reforms will test us all especially at a time of tightening budgets and increased restrictions and monitoring on spend. But where there is challenge, we believe there is also an opportunity (which coincidentally was the theme of our Children's residential this week).

Our first paper 'Resilience, identity and contribution' stresses that a person-centred approach to integration means working in a cohesive and concerted way to invest in both the 'real wealth' of local communities, and that of its members. We strongly support integration but we do have concerns about how it will be achieved. Integration is often adopted under the premise of re-structuring or re-configuration and not of changed thinking and creating the cultural shift that will really empower children, young people, families and adults. True integration must start from the individual as a person, taking into account their values, beliefs, experiences, their skills - and their ability to contribute - as well as their needs. It must design support around them rather than ask them to contort themselves around mould of services.

Our accompanying paper 'Creating an integrated, outcome-focused and family-centred offer' offers some thoughts on how these principles could work in practice, particularly in relation to funding and resource allocation. It proposes that we start with the individual, their assessed need and unite and integrate funding, workforce and activity around the individual in a way that supports them to participate in - and contribute to - the wider world alongside their peers.

In summary, if integration is to succeed then it must start from the person, not from organisational arrangement. Any change to how people are supported must be centred on improving the actual lived experience of those people. Our life experience, belief, faith, culture and history shape our identity, that is how we live and what is most important and cherished by each of us. Wealth and poverty are not simply monetary measures but about all the resources we have or do not have. Communities can be rich sources of support, interaction and opportunity and public services can have an important role in facilitating and increasing the richness and wealth within these communities.

You can find out more about the principles and potential for integration be reading our papers here.

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Last Updated : 03 July 2014. Page Author: Laura Bimpson.