Social care: an interview with Neil Matthewman, CEO Community Integrated Care

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Neil, please introduce Community Integrated Care:

Community Integrated Care is one of the UK’s largest social and health care charities. We support over 2500 people with learning disabilities, mental health concerns, autism and age-related needs, living across England and Scotland.

Our charity has recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, which is an incredible milestone. For a quarter of a century, Community Integrated Care has supported the most vulnerable people in society, helping them to fulfil their potential and enjoy better lives in the community. We take great pride in being an organisation that has changed thousands of lives and of playing our part in creating a more inclusive society.

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I understand that Community Integrated Care (CIC) was formed at a time when the care landscape was completely different than it is today. Please can you give a brief outline of how the care sector has changed over the past 25 years?

Community Integrated Care was formed in 1988, at the advent of the ‘Care in the Community’ agenda, by Dr David Robertson – a Halton-based GP, who believed that the care sector needed to change and better enable the people it supported.

At this time many people with learning disabilities or mental health concerns lived in large hospitals that were very institutional; Dr Robertson passionately believed that this was wrong, so he created our charity with the aim of supporting them to live independently in the community. He recognised that just moving people from hospitals into the community wasn’t enough to deliver true independent living - he wanted to improve standards and ensure that care services were built around the people they support – their needs, interests and aspirations.

This focus on providing greater independence and choice has been a theme of the past 25 years, from both a policy and practical perspective. There is a far greater focus on personalisation and choice now than there ever was at the time when Community Integrated Care formed.

The other significant change that we’ve witnessed in the past quarter-century relates to people’s expectations. As people have been integrated into independent living, their expectations have naturally grown and it is incumbent upon providers to act ambitiously to meet these.

What do you think are the main factors that have brought about these changes?

There has been more empowerment of people who use care services, assisted by active lobbying from pressure groups seeking to support and facilitate change.

I think the expectations of society have also changed, in both political and socio-economic terms. There are far greater aspirations today than there were 25 years ago, and this is undoubtedly positive as it requires responsiveness amongst both providers and commissioners of care services.

These factors will continue to influence the care sector in the decades ahead and providers like Community Integrated Care will need to remain attuned to evolving political, economic and social priorities.

Do you think the UK care sector has changed largely for the better or for the worse?

I believe that it has changed for the better. When Community Integrated Care was first formed, the people we supported had lived in isolation in hospital settings - now they are living genuinely independent, full and happy lives, where they are included within society.

Over time, attitudes and understanding have developed. Today, there is a far greater focus on the individuality of the people we support and an ambition to enable them to fulfil their potential.

That’s not to say that everything is perfect, as there are still big challenges ahead. The current economic situation has created some difficult constraints, but within these there are also opportunities as well. I believe that providers must strive to maintain the positive momentum of the past 25 years, by having a constructive outlook and focussing on developing creative solutions to the challenges we face.

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What limitations do you think the UK care sector currently has?

The current funding outlook and the increasing demand for care services, for instance with the growing elderly population, have presented significant challenges. These limitations require the development of new and innovative solutions, without compromising on quality.

These are really significant challenges for the sector – not least matching people’s expectations to the funding outlook. All of this forces care providers to look, think and act differently.

How do you think these constraints can be overcome and are there plans in place to achieve this?

There are things that we providers can influence, by independently developing solutions or by working very closely with commissioners of services. However, there are some fundamentals that we can’t change, such as government policy and the overall funding outlook.

At Community Integrated Care, we’ve been planning our response to these challenges by focussing on the things that we can influence, rather than the things that we cannot. By proactively talking to commissioners about opportunities to redesign services, to both improve outcomes for the people we support and also reduce some costs, we can continue to make the positive impact that we have made for 25 years.

We are also keen to explore opportunities to work with other providers, where it makes sense, in terms of providing services jointly or by sharing some infrastructure, such as training or facilities. By doing this, we can use our collective strengths to develop a stronger foundation to overcome the current challenges.

One of the CIC’s aims is to advance standards in the care sector. How do you measure these standards and in what ways has CIC helped to advance them?

Community Integrated Care is committed to not only achieving the standards that are required by our regulatory bodies, the Care Quality Commission and the Care Inspectorate, but wherever we can, going beyond these. The starting point for this involves defining what ‘good’ looks like, by benchmarking ourselves against other organisations, and ensuring that we have the infrastructure to deliver these high standards.

Whilst we work within a regulatory framework, we go beyond this, through benchmarking, self-appraisal, peer-group assessment and key performance indicators, so we can be sure that we are demonstrably achieving our aspirations.

We have also raised standards by developing new innovative service models - most recently launching ‘EachStep’, a ground-breaking £5 million dementia care service in Manchester, which can uniquely support people from diagnosis until the end of their lives.

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How has CIC helped to create a more inclusive society?

For 25 years, Community Integrated Care has championed the rights and dignity of people with care needs, working to overcome social exclusion and giving them their rightful stake in society.

We can take great pride in the impact we made in our earliest days - integrating people within communities, where they had previously been shut away in large institutional settings. The individuals we support today live lives that people with care needs, and their families, could not have imagined 25 years ago – enjoying employment, recreation, active lifestyles – genuinely being part of, and putting something back into, society.

People with care needs are included and accepted in a way that perhaps they wouldn’t have been 25 years ago. Much of this comes from our efforts, and the efforts of other pioneering care providers, to overcome stigma, break down barriers and place the people we support at the heart of communities.

What are CIC’s plans for the future?

We’ve just approved a new five year strategy and there are some important ambitions in there. One is to grow our organisation, so that we can offer our support to even more people.

There are also some important ambitions to drive up the quality of what we do. We will be investing in our people, our infrastructure and our services, so that we are a sustainable and forward-thinking organisation that remains at the forefront of the care sector for the next 25 years.

Focussing on outcomes remains very important to us, as well as delivering value for money for commissioners and others that are procuring our services.

We aspire to build upon and progress the rich legacy of our history and strive to be, at all levels, a truly leading care provider. I believe that our charity is in a strong position to continue to thrive for the next quarter century and beyond, and I look forward to an exciting future for Community Integrated Care

Where can readers find more information?

Our website is www.c-i-c.co.uk. It contains lots of information about our services and ways to get in touch with our charity.

About Neil Matthewman

Neil Matthewman BIG IMAGENeil Matthewman joined Community Integrated Care as Chief Executive Officer in August 2011, bringing with him a wealth of experience gained during a long career within the public sector.

Having held a range of leadership roles in both NHS service provider and commissioning organisations, Neil left his role as Managing Director for Health Services at NHS Blackburn with Darwen Care Trust to join the Community Integrated Care.

Under Neil’s stewardship, Community Integrated Care has entered a period of rapid growth, seeing the organisation provide its services to more people living across England and Scotland.

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