Action learning rises to the challenges of commissioning services for people with learning disability

I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to run a pilot action learning set for those both commissioning and providing services for people with learning disability in the London Borough of Newham.  Action learning sets are classically comprised of peers so this membership created a real stretch/tension.  Providers who are in direct competition with each other would not normally work together in the same set.  So for me the challenge was how to create trust and endeavour to find creative solutions which would have a positive impact for vulnerable service users.  

After exploring what confidentiality meant in the set, we set out to explore creative solutions which could be adopted across the whole borough.  We found the most useful action learning approach was a peer consultancy model.  In this model the presenter of an issue takes open questions and, once some actions are achieved, she or he hears from the rest of the set members who offer both ideas, examples of best practice and their own individual viewpoints.

Within the pilot set there were some great moments of learning.  One provider was asked in his presentation “What was the role of providers in the issue at hand?”  At a later set meeting, this very question was asked by the same provider to a commissioner.  It was effectively re framed as “How could providers help you with this resource constraint?”

There were some really powerful instances of people achieving a real understanding of the challenges and concerns for those working in different roles in the sector.  The challenges we explored included

  • providing stability of care for service users despite frequent changes in provider organisations
  • how to better integrate social care and NHS provision where the structure does not provide for this
  • how to respond to behaviour that challenges the care system

The final set meeting explored numerous ways in which the dialogue between providers and commissioners could be continued to better improve service delivery for those with learning disability in Newham.

For more details of this programme see our case study.

Part of the Department of Health Grant funded “Finding Common Purpose” project which is chaired by the Co-Chair of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Care Learning Disability Network, the Local Government Association set up a pilot action learning set bringing together commissioners and providers of services for people with learning disability in the London Borough of Newham

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