The Care Act 2014 requires local authorities to ‘consider the person’s own strengths and capabilities, and what support might be available from their wider support network or within the community to help’ in considering ‘what else other than the provision of care and support might assist the person in meeting the outcomes they want to achieve’. In order to do this the assessor ‘should lead to an approach that looks at a person’s life holistically, considering their needs in the context of their skills, ambitions, and priorities’.
Local authorities should identify the individual’s strengths – personal, community and social networks – and maximise those strengths to enable them to achieve their desired outcomes, thereby meeting their needs and improving or maintaining their wellbeing.
Any suggestion that support could be available from family and friends should be considered in the light of their appropriateness, willingness and ability to provide any additional support and the impact on them of doing so. This is also subject to the agreement of the adult or carer in question (see 6.64 of the Care Act guidance).
The implementation of a strengths-based approach within the care and support system requires cultural and organisational commitment beyond frontline practice. Practitioners will need time for research and familiarisation with community resources. Accountability has to be with the practitioner and time has to be allowed for the assessment to be undertaken appropriately and proportionately.
The objective of the strengths-based approach is to protect the individual’s independence, resilience, ability to make choices and wellbeing. Supporting the person’s strengths can help address needs (whether or not they are eligible) for support in a way that allows the person to lead, and be in control of, an ordinary and independent day-to-day life as much as possible. It may also help delay the development of further needs.
Strengths-based practice is a collaborative process between the person supported by services and those supporting them, allowing them to work together to determine an outcome that draws on the person’s strengths and assets.
As such, it concerns itself principally with the quality of the relationship that develops between those providing and those being supported, as well as the elements that the person seeking support brings to the process.
Working in a collaborative way promotes the opportunity for individuals to be co-producers of services and support rather than solely consumers of those services.