Leadership, Performance and Innovation working group

The first meeting of the European Social Network's (ESN) new policy and practice group on Leadership, Performance and Innovation took place earlier this week. The new working group will tackle four related themes:

  • The impact of the crisis and responses to it

  • Leadership and management in social services

  • Performance management and evidence-based practice

  • Innovation in social services, including social innovation

In working on these themes, the group will promote better practice across ESN and contribute to policy making with ultimate aim of improving the lives of service users.

This group of senior managers has a mixture of strategic and operational responsibilities covering a range of social services from child protection to long-term care, from welfare benefits to community health. Coming from various professional backgrounds (social work, economics, psychology, medicine, law) most now manage large budgets (often over several 100m EUR in Western Europe) and a workforce of several hundred. They are working within the framework of regional and national policy and are accountable to local elected politicians. Not all group members have experienced the crisis, but wanted to participate because they anticipated future pressures on service demand, costs and funding. ESN members from Serbia and Romania were also in the group, but in a position of developing services from a low level using external funding sources.

Case studies of budget reductions from the London Borough of Redbridge in the UK and the City of Aarhus in Denmark highlighted some efficiency measures and ways of redesigning services (available for ESN members in the Members' Area):

  • Reduce number of people (of all ages) living in long-stay residential homes or hospitals

  • Focus on prevention and rehabilitation so people (of all ages) can live independently at home

  • Accurate unit cost measurement and monitoring through electronic invoicing and payment

The group acknowledged, however, that there had to be some reduction in staffing and higher charges for service users who are able to pay. Consultation with employees, service users and families and service providers (in-house and external) were seen as vital in making these changes work. Political support from the local mayor and councillors was also seen as important in legitimising the changes.

Find out more about the work of ESN's Leadership, Performance, Innovation working group and read the 'Contemporary issues in the public management of social services in Europe' series. ESN members can access the presentations from all meetings of the working group in the Projects section of the Members' Area.