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August 9, 2017

Turning the corner

Cornerstone is one of the largest social care charities in the country. If it were following the usual script, it would be pursuing ever more and ever larger contracts in order to grow the organisation. Except that it’s not doing that – in fact Cornerstone is doing the exact opposite of what might be expected.  Hierarchical management structures are being removed and replaced with small, locally-focused, self-managing groups of staff. Cornerstone Scotland is becoming Cornerstone Local. This could be a turning point for the big care providers.

Edel Harris, Cornerstone

The Scottish social care sector is subject to a fast changing and challenging external environment, leading many care provider organisations like Cornerstone to seriously consider options for change.

Cornerstone has developed an ambitious new strategic plan which we have called Local Cornerstone based on two years of comprehensive research and inspired by our study visits to the US, the Netherlands and other parts of the UK.

The new strategy has been designed to embrace the challenges and opportunities presented by the changing social care sector, and aims to position Cornerstone for continued success and a sustainable future.

Cornerstone’s purpose is to enable the people we support to enjoy a valued life – a life they choose. Local Cornerstone has been designed to ensure the individual is truly at the centre of all our activity and also ensures we maximise the opportunities presented by self-directed support.

One of our overriding objectives is to demonstrate that we genuinely value social care as a profession. To achieve this we plan to re-direct resources to local communities and, inspired by Buurtzorg in the Netherlands, introduce a network of self-organising teams of up-skilled social care practitioners who will be recognised and valued in society for the important work they do.

Other important elements of the new business model include the establishment of the Cornerstone Foundation which exists to raise charitable funds so we can do some amazing things that help all of the people we support to live a valued life.

We have made a significant investment in technology to equip colleagues with the tools they need to do their job well without the need to spend hours of time in offices filling in forms and responding to emails. An overall improvement in all our systems and processes saves money which can be redirected into the local community. It also ensures that our colleagues are able to spend more of their time caring for and being with the people they support

Our ten local branches will operate in a similar way to a franchise with a high degree of autonomy to make local decisions and meet the needs of the communities they serve.

The removal of managerial roles allows colleagues to genuinely be trusted and empowered to make their own decisions

A new flat structure and the removal of managerial roles allows colleagues to genuinely be trusted and empowered to make their own decisions including for example rota management, assigning team member responsibilities, deciding on their own training, peer appraisal and being as creative and innovative as they wish. Our team of coaches are always on hand to provide advice if required.

Our reduced business support function has been re-invented as Cornerstone Central with an overall aim to provide exceptional service to the teams and branches when required and requested.

We have been overwhelmed with the support we have received from our key stakeholders and partners. Our regulators, the Care Inspectorate and the Scottish Social Services Council have agreed to come on the journey with us and to assist with any challenges or obstacles we may face as we test this new model in a Scottish context. Cornerstone is one of the Scottish Government test sites for introducing the principles of Buurtzorg to Scotland and we have had tremendous support from government colleagues including their representation on our evaluation committee in partnership with the University of Strathclyde and Social Work Scotland.

The commissioners and chief officers of Health and Social Care Partnerships in all 18 local authority areas where Cornerstone provides services are supporting our plans including in some areas working with us on the complexities of contracts and financial systems as we roll out our first cohort of self-organising teams.

Engaging with the people we support and families is an important part of the process and we have already held a number of information sessions across the country. We plan to do more in-depth consultation at the point a new team is identified to ensure that the people we support are fully involved in the process. We are pleased to be working with ARC Scotland on our involvement strategy which is particularly designed to allow people with a learning disability and others who may have communication difficulties, such as people with dementia, to be fully engaged to participate in a meaningful way.

There is a lot of interest in the Local Cornerstone model with requests for us to share our story coming in all the time – New Zealand, Austria, England and Northern Ireland are just some of the places where colleagues from Cornerstone are sharing the learning from our journey to date. Sharing stories through our storyteller in residence we hope will inspire others to follow our lead.

We recognise that we are still very much at the start of our journey but with a clear vision of what we hope to achieve and with the support of colleagues, many other partners we are confident that we will reach our destination.

Edel Harris is chief executive of Cornerstone