ESN members bring their local perspective

The OECD’s first Consultation on 'Integrated Services and Housing' was held in Paris on 8-9 November, 2012. Over 60 experts, academics, practitioners and policy makers attended. The meeting was designed to provide a forum for exploring the similarities and differences in providing integrated services for populations with multiple needs. Four of the six sessions addressed the topic from the perspective of vulnerable populations (homeless, vulnerable families, people with complex health needs and the elderly). The remaining two sessions defined the topic of service integration and outlined the main issues, as well as created a space for an open discussion of potential next steps for work in this area.

Session 3 covered integrated service delivery for vulnerable families. ESN member Graham Owen, Social Services Director at the National Welfare Board, Sweden, was invited to provide an overview as well as examples of strategies addressing the needs of vulnerable families in Sweden. Owen’s experience of an integrated approach to supporting families in Botkyrka, near Stockholm, showed a range of support including: child protection, preventative services, income supplements, psychiatric support, and alcohol and drug abuse services. Specifically in the housing sector, several integrated projects and joint management of health, social and school services are taking place, with a focus on early intervention. Their aim has been to combat the risk of eviction for households with children. Owen stated that in his experience, schools have an important role to play in identifying and intervening in vulnerable families directly via children. A concrete example of how this might work has been the collaboration of social services and schools, via Mobilisation (Kraftsamling), which has led to social workers being appointed to schools in that region.

Session 4 focused on the needs of people with mental health problems. ESN member Marianne Cohen, Director of Recovery DK at Aarhus, Denmark, presented the person-centred approach in mental health and social services in the city of Aarhus, which is led by four values: personal orientation, personal involvement, self-determination and potential for development. Cohen highlighted the integrated approach used in Aarhus, as an individual moves from identification, diagnosis to recovery and employment, with housing and counselling preceding employment support. Several recommendations for delivering integrated services with people with complex health and social needs were made, including: involving the service users, the importance of peer support, and focus on strengths/resources.

The last session took the form of a panel discussion in which ESN Chief Executive John Halloran participated. Mr Halloran favoured revisiting previous approaches, cross-sectoral work and needs assessments as a smarter way of allowing people to use the services they need. Panellists stressed how understanding horizontal and vertical service integration and delivery was becoming more important in their work in the context of reform and fiscal consolidation, and in particular how the collation of more and better informed experiences across countries is necessary for effective policy development.

A full list of the participants, presentations and commissioned papers can be found online.