What can we expect in 2008? 2nd of 3 expert views
Karen Biggs is chief executive of Phoenix Futures, a £14million-turnover provider of care and rehabilitation services for people with drug and alcohol problems in the UK.
Columnist: Karen Biggs
WATCHING THE PROPOSED STRATEGY.
The impact of the new 10-year national drugs strategy will start to become evident as we move through 2008. We should not expect a radically different strategic direction to be set out in this strategy. It is likely, rather, that we will see a ‘steady as she goes’ approach and the interest will be in how this is reflected in commissioning practices.
It has also been reported in previous issues of Addiction Today that the strategy will call for collaborative work not only with alcohol-treatment organisations but across government departments.
Having said that there will be no radical difference, I think we still need to prepare ourselves for change – whether it is on a personal level, structurally within organisations or within the sector at large. The drivers for this change will come from a multiple of directions.
INVESTING IN STAFF.
As services funded by government contracts are retendered, more staff will be moving to organisations they did not choose to work for. While we can all debate whether this retendering process improves services we deliver, what is undisputable is the unsettling effect it has on staff and organisations.
We know from experience at Phoenix Futures over the past year the reward you can reap from investing time in helping people to feel part of their new organisation while also managing the onerous legal arrangements associated with transferring services.
We should remember that the efficacy of service delivery is wholly dependent on the motivation and skills of our staff. We should be offering them the opportunity to invest in themselves through increased opportunity to develop skills and gain qualifications.
We take this so seriously at Phoenix Futures that we developed our own CMI-accredited training programme to ensure we achieve the NTA accreditation targets by the year end.
But this has taken considerable effort. For the sector to act similarly will require sustained energy and commitment throughout 2008.
Inevitably, we will be asked as a sector to become more efficient. As government department budgets
are squeezed, the expectation will be that we can ‘provide more for less’. We already see this at Phoenix Futures in our prison, community and residential services.
As we all try to make the same money stretch further, we will be looking to identify efficiency savings and be increasingly conscious of the value for money which our services provide. The drug-treatment sector is, in my view, incredibly cost effective. The challenge for us is to evidence that and to ensure we do not compromise on the quality of our provision in reaction to increased efficiency demands.
A key feature of the new strategy is likely to be demonstrating our outcomes, evidencing what we do and measuring its success. This will, as we have already seen, lead to more administration. We must be careful that we do not overburden our staff and interfere with their ability to deliver the very services we are monitoring.
Above all, what my first year in the drugs field has taught me is that what we can rely on most is the sector continuing to deliver valuable and effective services into 2008 and beyond.