Empathic Urbanite

social business for urban development

5 tips for creating strong local partnerships in the social care sector

How do I create local partnerships in the care sector in East London?

I always knew that working with local partner organisations would be the main way to promote our services and grow the social enterprise brand of Three Sisters Care. But I’ve been coming across some resistance from potential partners, in Tower Hamlets especially, so I thought I’d better ask for help.

image003Neil Bennet is Partner Relations Manager (North) for Age UK, which means he works with local Age UK branches to support them in resource sharing across the network. Ideally placed then, to give me some tips on partnership working.

Jobeda: What are some general tips for working with partners who might have slightly different goals?

Neil: For 5 years I worked at the grant-making section of a CVS and we only gave money to partnerships. This is what I learned from assessing the strength of partnerships at that time.

  1. images-1Be clear on the aims and objectives of the partnership. You should have a strong written agreement. This should include guarantees and if people don’t like giving you a guarantee, then soften it by saying that your Trustees will ask you to show them a written guarantee of what each partner will get out of the partnership.
  2. State what common ground you have and keep confirming this, map out your common ground on paper and recognise differences as well as commonalities and be clear on what the deal-breakers are.
  3. There must be some informality, as in, you have to get to know each other as people and establish human relationships.
  4. I have to add that when partnerships fail it is rarely because of the high line principles; it’s often the minutiae on which people differ, fall outs happen due to details, so look out for these and then look for ways to compromise on the details.
  5. Finally, review the partnership on a regular basis. Not just the targets but also the quality of the relationships and don’t forget to recognise the unplanned benefits. Unplanned benefits of partnerships can sometimes be greater than the planned benefits, so be sure to track this.

Jobeda: I want to set up a Network for social care providers in my area because there does not seem to be one. How should I go about doing this?

Neil: Firstly do your homework thoroughly and find out what networks do exist – your local CVS at least will have a health and social care forum [Ed: yes it does!!]. If none of these fit your need and you want to stat a network from scratch, there are two key approaches:

  1. Move informally – talk to people you already have personal connections with and start with them, growing the network organically.
  2. Be virtual – much of your networking will be online, so have an established online space where you can all meet.

I’d also state with emphasis; there is no need to fall out over competition. All social care and domiciliary care companies need to work together. The Councils don’t want to deal with lots of small organisations, they want large consortiums., so it’s in everyone’s interests to work together  in a network.

I’ll give you an example; because you’ve already said you want to do an Advice Day with local partners, look at the Big Lottery Transition Grant.  This is aimed at encouraging new ways of providing advice. Advice should be an integrated service where you no longer just signpost people to a suitable provider, but you actually book an appointment for them at that provider. Partnerships will need to become tighter.


Thanks Neil! That’s very helpful. Figure that! Even health and social care is going through a transition regarding access. It seems like a really good time to start new partnerships in the sector. Since interviewing Neil, I have launched the monthly Advice and Information Days – our next one is on 21st February. In the meantime, I’m excited about the East London Social Care Network, which I’m about to launch with our first informal partner, Focus Care. Watch this space.

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