Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council: Creating a 'super' partnership of multiple providers

Six core service partners are working together in Solihull to deliver treatment and support to people with alcohol problems. The Solihull Integrated Substance Misuse Service (SIAS) is led by the local mental health foundation trust in partnership with a range of voluntary sector providers and the council’s social care team.

The challenge

The borough of Solihull is in the West Midlands. It is one of seven unitary councils in the region and covers a population of more than 200,000 residents.

Challenges exist within Solihull to address the 11-year life expectancy gap between the most deprived and least deprived areas of the borough. Alcohol misuse is certainly a factor with the area seeing an increasing number of alcohol-related admissions.

Traditionally substance misuse services were commissioned from separate providers, which focussed solely on the core areas of treatment and recovery.

But successfully tackling alcohol problems requires input from many different areas, such as mental health, education and social care as well as health.

The solution

The council’s public health team set out to develop a partnership of providers to harness substance misuse expertise. It led to the creation of the SIAS partnership, bringing together a range of voluntary sector organisations and the social care team under the leadership of the Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust.

Over the years the partnership has worked to develop targeted support streams; supporting the family, hospital liaison, health needs, young people and transition, skills and work, criminal justice and mental health.

Services are provided from multiple outreach hubs across the region and are complemented by specialist services, including detox services, a counselling hub and recovery clinic.

Another benefit of the partnership is the bespoke peer-led community prevention work. A recent project included the creation of a mobile café from a converted caravan to tour the local area and engage young people about alcohol consumption.

Head of Commissioning and Performance Michelle Hughes said: “Alcohol misuse is complex and requires many different partners working together. By providing services under this partnership model we have been able to harness the skills and expertise of a number of different agencies.”

The impact

The partnership work means the service can provide holistic, wrap-around support to clients. An example of this is the care provided to Roger. He came to the attention of SIAS when he was admitted to hospital after having a fall. He was 47 and had a history of injuries from falls linked to drinking.

Helping to support and transform the lives of people affected by alcohol 21 The hospital alerted SIAS and the hospital in-reach team visited him and carried out an assessment. Previous attempts to tackle his drinking had failed so a different approach was established.

A social worker was brought in and arranged for him to be admitted to a residential rehab centre.

Within two days he had been transferred there and engaged in a four-week detox programme, while receiving care for his injuries. Following this he took part in an educational programme and is now rebuilding his life.

In terms of performance, the partnership has seen an increase in the number of referrals as well as enjoying high satisfaction ratings.

What is more, Solihull is now ranked first of all 151 local authorities with 45 per cent of all residents requiring alcohol treatment receiving it.

Lessons learned

As the partnership developed it became clear that housing was a core issue that needed to be incorporated into the service.

Housing support was integrated into the service in 2017. It has seen staff from Solihull Community Housing working with the SIAS teams both from hubs and doing outreach work together on the street to target homeless people.

This has been aided by the development of a Housing First model that sees homeless people offered housing first, rather than needing to be alcohol or drug free before they get accommodation.

Funding from the grants programme linked to the Housing First approach is helping to fund two new posts – a rough sleepers coordinator and domestic abuse worker. Both will work closely with SIAS.

Mrs Hughes: “Housing has a major impact on our clients. It’s such a crucial issue – and if you cannot support that and bring some stability it is very hard to tackle alcohol and drug problems.”

How is the approach being sustained?

A new contract started in April 2019 and runs until 2023 with the option of an extension until 2027 depending on performance, giving the providers the security of a longer contract to build on the progress that has been made. The previous contract was for three years with an option of a two-year extension.

Mrs Hughes: “It was a sign of how pleased we are with how the service is developing. By giving a longer contract we feel we are evidencing our investment in the partnership, providing longer term commitment to allow the ability to continue to build on what has been achieved so far.”

To help ensure the service remains challenged the partnership board arranges twice-yearly performance review meetings with key stakeholders, including the police, the CCG, local Public Health England representatives, licensing and the Safer Solihull Partnership.

Mrs Hughes said: “It is designed to be a robust process. We want to hear from those we are working with about how we can improve what we do. You need to have communication to continue to build on what you are doing.”

Contact details

Michelle Hughes Head of Commissioning and Performance Public Health Directorate, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council