National Social Care Conference 2021: Sue Revell's highlights, day 2

Sue Revell, Strategic Lead – Business Development at Practice Solutions Ltd, reflects on this year’s National Social Care Conference, which took place online, 17 – 18 November.

As a bit of background, since 2013 Practice Solutions have managed the work of the Business Unit for the Association of Directors of Social Services, Cymru. As part of this contract, every year an immense amount of work is undertaken by the Practice Solutions Events team to manage and coordinate the delivery of the ADSS Cymru National Social Care Conference

In this second installment, Sue shares her highlights from Day 2. You can read her recap of Day 1 here.


"The agenda for Day 2 was packed. I don’t want you to consign this to the ‘Too Long; Didn’t Read’ file, so I’m just going to pick out five of my highlights.

Like many others, I particularly enjoyed the panel discussion on future funding opportunities for Social Care in Wales. This was very ably chaired by Matt Jenkins, Deputy Director of the Welsh Government Social Services and Integration Directorate.The panel presented a diverse range of perspectives but with some very impactful messages. Darren Hughes from the Welsh NHS Confederation spoke about how we need a well-trained and resourced workforce across the health and social care system, highlighting that, ‘we can’t just magic people up to fill the workforce gaps. They need to be grown and invested in.’

Ruth Marks from the Wales Council for Voluntary Action spoke of the commitment and passion of volunteers who, ‘see the need and get stuck in’ (so true, and if you’re reading this, thank you!). Stuart Nixon, who has direct experience of care, spoke of how he had been able to remain active and in employment due to the interdependent relationship with his wife and carer rather than via the support of Social Care services. For Stuart, as for Jonathan Griffiths (ADSSC President) and Mary Wimbury (CEO, Care Forum Wales), these are moments of opportunity in the transformational space and we need to be creative to maximise those opportunities.

An image from Dr. Liz Gregory's presentation on co-production in the NYTH/NEST framework, used with permission

My next highlight was the session led by Dr. Liz Gregory, Chair of Early Help & Enhanced Support Workstream, who introduced us to ‘NYTH/NEST’. Having had a leadership role in children’s mental health services at various points in my own career, I was thrilled to see the progress that is being made in this area through co-production with children and young people. There has been an enormous investment of time in co-production, and it felt like this is really paying off.

The aim of the NYTH/NEST Framework is to highlight the most important things that support the mental health and wellbeing of babies, children, young people, parents, carers and their wider families, ensuring that all services work together to make them a priority. It emphasises that every relationship and every service needs to be Nurturing, Empowering, Safe and Trusted if we are to build the foundations for positive mental health and wellbeing – particularly for those who are struggling most. These qualities underline the importance of an approach which is both preventative and interventionalist – and are every bit as important for the professionals as for the young people receiving support.

Paralympic Gold Medallist, Dr. Karen Darke’s incredible keynote address was a particular highlight of the Conference for me, and, having recommended her, it was something of a relief to find her presentation even more inspiring than I had anticipated! Her words on, ‘courage, inspiration, sweat and love’ shone as brightly as her sparkling gold accessories, which might well catalyse a fashion moment for gold boots in the PSL office! She set out the stepping stones to gaining personal belief and improving confidence, and introduced us to the idea of the ‘WIBA’ (Wouldn’t it be Amazing), to give us focus and motivation to achieve our aspirations. I know I wasn’t the only one to find Karen’s talk hugely inspiring, and we’ll be returning to Karen’s wisdom with our team, to see how we can apply what we learned to our personal and business development too.

A screenshot from Dr. Karen Darke's keynote address, used with permission

Later on, Nick Andrews at Swansea University talked about, ‘the strengths and satisfactions that come from caring’ and how we often make many assumptions about what unpaid carers want in terms of respite support. I was struck by his observation that we need to move away from the negative mindset and assumption that we are, ‘relieving someone of a burden’. His session, ‘What a Difference a Break Makes’, no doubt felt relatable to most in the virtual room. Returning to the theme of possibilities, Nick urged local authorities to think more innovatively about the creative use of direct payments to facilitate short-break options.

I can’t finish without also recognising the hugely inspirational Dr Bnar Talabani. She is the only Welsh Doctor on Team Halo, a United Nations initiative to combat vaccine misinformation online. Dr Talabani shared her experiences of anti-vaccine myth-busting projects in communities all over Wales, to illustrate the power of using social media to reach communities we often struggle to connect with, sharing how to understand algorithms in order to target people with evidenced-base scientific information.

That’s a whistle stop tour through a very busy 1.5 days, but it really was incredibly inspiring to see so much good practice being shared, particularly against the backdrop of the pandemic. We were blessed with some incredible speakers and sponsors; my apologies that I can’t summarise everyone’s talk or you’d still be reading this when our next Conference gets underway!"

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