Monthly Archives: June 2013

Thoughts about social work, housing and integrated working – a guest post @tomemurtha

Integrated working and multi-disciplinary teams are not new in the housing world. In 1976 as a newly qualified teacher I started my housing career in Leicester’s Renewal Strategy Team under the leadership of John Perry. The Team comprised of many disciplines including social workers. The reason was quite simple. Urban renewal and housing is as much about people and communities as it is about bricks and mortar. This point is in danger of becoming lost in the current housing environment.

Recently I was asked to give a talk to a group of trainee social workers at my alma mater Goldsmiths College in London. The subject was a career in housing. I was surprised to see that a majority of the audience had not considered this as it seems to me that the qualities of a good social worker especially those relating to empathy and understanding are exactly what are required in housing today.

I used two periods in my career to make my case. My first job as a housing manager was with an organisation called Coventry Churches Housing Association which is now part of Midland Heart. The housing management team which was then called the tenant support team was made up of people with a housing, social work and a community work background. This is what attracted me to the post. From its origins CCHA had realised that all of these skills were required in order to offer real support for people and communities. I believe that this is as true today as it was then and that there are real opportunities in housing for people with a social work background. In fact the values and passion that often motivate people to consider a career in social work are exactly the values of the pioneers of the social housing sector. These values are required even more in this period of austerity as the demands for our services grow daily

My time as Chief Executive of Midland Heart, one of the largest housing and care social businesses in the country, showed the importance of these qualities even more. People with a social work background played an important role in many of our teams. Specialist social workers were employed in our care and support teams, working with people with learning disabilities, people with mental health issues, young people, and homeless people. Others worked in our extra care schemes and in our services for older people. You might argue that you would expect to see this and you would be correct. However the extent and diversity of our services in care and support and the opportunities offered are often unknown to the non-housing world.

More generic social workers also played a part in our housing management teams. Some doing very specialist work on family intervention project and others providing general housing management support, often working in the most deprived neighbourhoods and communities. I believe that there is no greater career than that offered in the housing and care sector.  There are not many professions where you can honestly say that your job does make a difference and that you help transform lives and communities. Throughout my career I have watched many do this and I am proud to have worked with such wonderful and inspiring people, who often made the extra-ordinary, appear ordinary.

About the author: Tom Murtha is a retired CEO and Chair of HACT – ideas and innovation in UK housing. Tom tweets as @tomemurtha




Do you have a question for the Technology and Care panel at #citizen2013?

I have accepted an invitation to be part of the Digital Dimensions of Social Care panel at the Citizen 2013 conference taking place in London on the 13th June. The conference is drawing upon the latest thinking in citizen focused service provision and will look at the types of technologies that are emerging that make public bodies better at responding to citizen needs. The conference is fully booked but there is a waiting list and there will be a live stream on the day. And of course there will be a very lively Twitter stream.

Thepanel will be chaired by Julia Manning Chief Exec at and my fellow panel members are Ruth Kennedy public service innovation & facilitating social change, Alan Rosenbach Special Policy Lead @CareQualityComm and Paul Hodgkin CEO of Patient Opinion and Care Opinion.

I thought it would be interesting to crowdsource questions in advance of the panel discussion.

I will be referring to this post during the debate so if you do have a question use the hashtag #citizen2013 or add a comment here. 

And of course if you want to be inspired about all the technology innovations available you can buy a copy of the Click Guide to Digital Technology for Adult Social Care!

What is your social media #toptip?

I am often asked for advice about how to use social media most effectively for engagement. Some thoughts and thanks to everyone who contributed their top tips!



I will be adding comments from Twitter so please feel free to add your own thoughts and social media top tip! 

Got a question about care resources? Ask Twitter!

twitterI am always interested to track the growing influence of social media in providing information from trusted sources. As the numbers of people using Twitter continue to grow there is now an impressive range of knowledge  available online and people are very willing  to share information and experiences . Whilst it is easy to run a google search on any topic it would appear that people are using Twitter as a further filter to gain recommendations about care resources. This certainly has implications for funders, practitioners, care providers and commissioners of care services.

Thanks to everyone who contributed their thoughts and retweeted my request for recommendations. 

Children’s charity Whizz-Kidz launches free app to help thousands more disabled children

 The children’s charity Whizz-Kidz have launched an iPhone and Android app to support its mission to transform the lives of disabled children.

The App is the latest in a series of innovations by the dynamic children’s charity. For the first time, young wheelchair users will be able to use their mobile phones to support them getting vital mobility equipment faster and to access training and work placements that will enable them to be more confident and independent. They’ll be able to do all this using the smartphone app, at the touch of a button, wherever they are.

Whizz-Kidz CEO, Ruth Owen said: ‘There are an estimated 70,000 disabled children and young people in the UK currently waiting for appropriate mobility equipment, so it is vital that we use all available channels to reach them.

‘At Whizz-Kidz, we are relentlessly focussed on our users and the App is the latest in a series of Whizz-Kidz innovations which seeks to give disabled kids the childhood they deserve and a future full of potential.’

The App will help Whizz-Kidz to reach more people and let them know about Whizz-Kidz services: whether that’s applying for mobility equipment or accessing one of our added value services – ambassador clubs, wheelchair skills training, work placements and residential camps.

The Whizz-Kidz App features all the power chairs, manual chairs and buggies available through Whizz-Kidz, along with ratings given to them by other wheelchair users. Once a disabled child or young person has received their mobility equipment, they can add their own review too. 

The Whizz-Kidz App links to the online application process, which allows users to submit detailed and accurate information about their mobility needs.  The Whizz-Kidz App harnesses the location of users to offer them fundraising and volunteering opportunities near them.

The Whizz-Kidz App can be downloaded free of charge from the App Store or the Android Store by searching ‘Whizz-Kidz’ or by clicking on the links below:

App Store (for iPhone)

Play Store (for Android)

This app follows other initiatives to improve disabled young people’s independence and choice, such as Whizz-Kidz’s ‘Child in a Chair in a Day’ which means that in 70% of routine cases children are able to take their equipment home on the day of assessment. This is supported by its ‘Man in a Van’ mobile solution which assesses and delivers equipment at the users’ convenience.

 Whizz-Kidz transformed the lives of more than 3,000 disabled children and young people in the last year by providing appropriate wheelchairs at the right time, and opportunities to meet, have fun, work and learn key skills for life.

You can follow @WhizzKidz on Twitter