Wigan Council’s ‘The Deal’ programme has been praised for its ‘radical new approach’ to improving the health and wellbeing of local residents.
In a report out today (26 June), the King’s Fund praised the council for working closely with communities, the NHS and other organisations to develop an ‘asset-based’ approach to local services.
It said the council has ‘transformed its approach’ to delivering services by ‘working with’ rather than ‘doing to’ and bringing its workforce together around a ‘shared vision and ethos’.
Wigan Council first introduced its ‘The Deal’ partnership approach in 2012, when it needed to identify savings of more than £140m in response to cutbacks from central government.
The aims of ‘The Deal’ include making Wigan a place where people want to invest, live, work and visit, with the council working with public and private sector partners, as well as community groups to develop sustainable economic growth, skills, infrastructure and a sense of pride and belief in the borough.
The report notes that Wigan Council now employs around 1,000 fewer people, and has lost roughly a fifth of its workforce.
But despite this, healthy life expectancy has increased significantly, bucking the trend for stagnation seen in the national figures.
And Care Quality Commission assessments indicate that the quality of social care services in Wigan has improved, and Wigan performs well compared with national and regional benchmarks at supporting people to leave hospital and to remain in the community rather than in long-term residential care
According to the King’s Fund report, a ‘set of positive attitudes and beliefs about the potential of staff and local people to bring about improvement’ is at the heart of the programme’s success.
‘Leaders have given frontline staff permission to try new things based on their conversations with people using services,’ the report states.
It also praises the council for devoting ‘considerable time and effort’ to engage staff and ensure that employees understand what the local authority is trying to achieve.
‘Wigan’s journey shows that it is possible to achieve substantial savings while protecting or improving outcomes, but only if services are genuinely transformed and upfront financial investment is available to help bring about new ways of working,’ the report states.
‘The Wigan Deal is still a work in progress and should not be seen as a panacea – the approach will need adapting to local circumstances if adopted elsewhere.
‘However, the journey that Wigan Council and its partners have taken contains some powerful insights, which could have a major impact if considered more widely in other local authorities, in the NHS and in public agencies of all kinds.’
The leader of Wigan Council, Cllr David Molyneux, welcomed the report and said: ‘This report has highlighted some key lessons for public sector agencies across the country, while identifying areas for us to focus on in the next few years to fully embed the Wigan Deal, particularly at the citizen – state relationship level. I hope our transformation journey helps to inspire others.’
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