How erosh Independent Living Standards helped the merger of Optivo and Southern Housing Group

In December 2022 Southern Housing was created following a merger of Optivo and Southern Housing Group. Bringing together two large organisations and seeking to harmonise the services for older people including sheltered housing and extra care housing was going to be challenging, particularly as the roles and service model was different. As Optivo was accredited with erosh Independent Living Standards it was agreed the accreditation would provide a framework to assist with the process of merging two services.

Discussions took place with erosh and a timeframe and plan was developed that was ambitious, but was necessary to be able to create a new service model that meets the best practice requirements of the accreditation and also in consultation with residents and staff.

The target for the on-site verification was set for March 2024 and the Service Improvement team took the lead in preparing for the assessment. There were challenges in combining the service, including staff structures being created, staff consultation through the process, resident consultation, harmonising the IT systems, as well as continuing to deliver services during a difficult time for the sector. The preparation for accreditation was complete by February 2024 and the verification process took place in March 2024 as planned.

The verification process was agreed between erosh and Southern Housing to include coverage across the 4 regions and sampling took place at a range of different schemes around the regions, with most completed in-person and some remote meetings. For consistency of approach 2 assessors who had previously been involved with the Optivo accreditation in 2020 were appointed to complete the assessments.

The Vision for the service

Southern Housing’s vision for Independent Living services set out the development of a consistent service model, that meets the needs and expectations of residents living in traditional sheltered and extra care homes. The aim is to ensure the right people are in place to deliver high-quality, on-site services, which provides residents with value for money and added social value.

The Merging of two service

Southern Housing went through a People Change process, with the aim of bringing together legacy organisations and ways of working to further harmonise and integrate services across the Independent Living teams. During this process, engagement with residents, colleagues and wider stakeholders took place to establish the vision for the future. The first phase of this process has been completed and Southern has now communicated a roadmap and key milestones to develop and embed it’s ‘one team, one service’ delivery model.

The Assessment

The assessment began through speaking to senior staff about the process, the vision for the new service and current challenges, including the formal staff process for new job roles being created. Liaison then took place with the Service Improvement team to ensure the site visits were structured to gather evidence to show how the standards were being met. The visits provided many opportunities to speak with residents about the service they received and to cover several areas within the standards, as well as a range of other visits and meetings with staff and residents. The assessment concluded with a report setting out the key findings, areas of good practice and recommendations for how the service could be improved. The report has been used to develop an action plan to work towards in the next year. A follow up Annual Review will take place in March 2025 to review progress.

You can find out more about the key process, lessons learnt, areas of good practice and what the new service offer looks like at our event in partnership with Southern Housing on 12th July 2024 at 2pm. Click here for more information and to reserve your place.

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