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Gateshead Adult Social Care
System Learning Group

When COVID-19 hit, Gateshead Adult Social Care knew that massive changes were afoot and wanted to make sure they had a mechanism for capturing all the learning that was taking place through the disruptions.

We set up a fortnightly 'System Learning' space where members from across the broader Adult Social Care teams could come together, share what they'd been seeing and doing, and collectively try to make sense of it all and figure out how they needed to adapt as a service.

This process led into some deep, existential questions - What is Social Care? What is care? - but through exploring these questions, and through getting to know one another as human beings, sharing experiences of the ups and downs of the mad COVID rollercoaster, supporting one another and deepening relationships, a direction of travel has gradually emerged for how the members of the group would like to 'do Adult Social Care differently.' Here is an excerpt from an emergent 'Statement of Beliefs' that will underpin that direction of travel:

"We believe the only way we can care for people is by understanding who each unique person is. A person’s identity - how they see themselves and where they find value in their life - is centrally important to their ability to receive care and to our ability to provide it. This is what it means to be working in a person-centred way. We believe we need to stop seeing people as bearers of problems or users of services. We need to understand the layers of a person beyond the problem. We believe we need to view people as fundamentally resourceful and creative."

Here's what one member of the group had to say about this relational learning space:


"It is easy to become stuck, lost and swallowed by ‘doing our job’ - I nearly encountered this recently due to the pressures we face. So being part of something that is focused on trying to generate change on a macro level feels radical and more aligned to some of the founding principles of social work. That is massive and I think that is what perhaps resonates for so many. When I couldn't attend, I missed the sessions. I missed learning and hearing the contributions of others and contributing myself. But I missed the hope that it produces. Hope is often something social workers and social care workers offer to those we work with, but I think it’s largely absent from ourselves. If I could succinctly (very hard for me) use one word to describe what the sessions mean to me, it is hope."

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