Exploring person-centred approaches to community care

A central component of community care is ensuring that services are tailored to the needs of the individual in terms of accessibility and practical implementation. At the European Social Services Conference (ESSC), we heard from three initiatives from across Europe with unique approaches to this principle of serving the needs of the individual.

Localising social services into the community

One initiative presented to delegates was “Staircase to Staircase’ in Aarhus, Denmark. Vibeke Jensen and Pernille Randrup Thomsen, from Aarhus municipality described how the initiative is changing the way families with specific challenges can access social services. “For families with a complex series of problems, we have left it to them to figure out where they go to ask for help,” Ms Randrup Thomsen explained. Staircase to Staircase bridges the accessibility gap by simplifying social services contact point for families to just one person. Together with a case worker, participating families assess what their needs are and plan sustainable and bespoke solutions. In creating joint ownership of the plan, a sense of agency is returned to the family, enabling them to arrange the necessary support on terms that work for them.

Personalising workforce training

Jim Thomas and Marie Lovell from Skills for Care are spearheading a “personal workforce budget’ initiative for social workers in adult social care, family members, or anyone that may interact with individuals with complex challenges. The available budget may only be used for bespoke training or development to gain a better understanding of the specific challenge the individual is facing.

The impact of this training with social workers on supported persons is enormous, with a two thirds reduction in challenging behaviour and an overall reduction in medication needed, Ms Lovell and Mr Thomas reported. In addition, with individuals who had been placed in residential care, the training improved their relationships with carers and other people to such an extent that they were able to live back in the community again. In fact, Mr Thomas said that one in five participating organisations relayed “an avoidance of [institutional] admission by being very personalised in the learning and development that we were doing for those people”.

Workforce related benefits included reduced stress at work, increased confidence and improved career progression. The cost saving impact on organisations comes as a result of needing less staff to support people with challenging behaviours, freeing up human resources.

Using digital technology to better individualise care

Steve Lauriks and Xavier Delgado Alonso, from Amsterdam and Catalonia respectively, presented an e-case management tool, the Self-Sufficiency Matrix (SSM), that helps local social service providers better understand the exact needs of individuals. The instrument can be used to assess an individual’s self-sufficiency in different life domains, such as physical health, work and education. Social workers can formulate goals on the basis of the assessment results and track their progress. In this way, “the SSM tool supports the social worker’s initial diagnosis and evaluation as the case evolves,” explained Mr Delgado.

When providers of care were included in the implementation of the SSM, social services became more effective and saved money by more efficiently matching the relevant resources to the needs of the individuals.


A common thread with all three initiatives is that service provision is approached in a holistic manner, taking into account the various needs an individual may have. Over the past four years ESN has been holding a Working Group on Integrated Care and Support, which focused on making interventions person-centred by addressing a user’s whole range of needs. A multi-disciplinary way of working is a relatively new concept in social services, which can lead to difficulties in implementation. However, the potential benefits for those in need of support and social services professionals cannot be ignored. On the twin pillars of multi-disciplinary work and bespoke support social services can best facilitate the inclusion of everyone in need.