Beyond Blame
Fixing broken systems in housing and social care

Wednesday 29th November 2017, Kingston University & St Georges, University of London, Kingston Hill, Surrey KT2 7LB
9.45 – 15:40

The public and third sectors are littered with high-profile tragedies that have become the subject of major and costly enquiries, reports and tabloid stories.

In the aftermath, the attention of politicians, media and the public always turns to who was to blame. This is a predictable and understandable response; however it distracts us from examining the systemic factors behind why tragedies happen and, more importantly, how we can design out the systemic causes of these failures.

Services have been stripped back to the bone, demand appears to be spiralling out of control and morale is low. Many public sector managers feel there is no light at the end of the tunnel. In these difficult times, people need hope.

At this one-day conference, meet housing and social care pioneers who have reasons to be cheerful. They are helping more people, creating capacity, releasing money for prevention work and reducing risk.

The event is run jointly by Vanguard Consulting and the Department of Social Work and Social Care at Kingston University and St Georges, University of London

Case studies

  • North Wales, a homecare collaboration between Cartrefi Cymru (a multi-stakeholder care co-operative) and Gwynedd Council
  • Shelter – redesigning their response to housing and homelessness
  • Walsall Council, a different approach to supported housing and homelessness
  • Torfaen County Borough Council, redesigning their adult services across geographic patches

North Wales


  • Mandy Tilston-Viney, Regional Director, Cartrefi Cymru
  • Meilys Heulfryn Smith, Senior Business Manager, Adults, Health and Wellbeing Department, Gwynedd Council

Home care is challenging to both local authority commissioners and service providers and is often unsatisfactory in meeting the individual needs of the older people receiving home care. Learn about the impact of applying the Vanguard Method to the provision of home care in one part of North Wales – Cartrefi Cymru (a multi-stakeholder care co-operative) and Gwynedd Council.

By finding out what matters to the person, enabling support staff to do what matters and building relationships between professionals, they are learning that there is an alternative to the traditional ‘time and task’ model. You will learn how the Vanguard Method is being applied, how success is being measured and how challenges are being dealt with in a collaborative and co-productive environment.



  • Mark Scott, Deputy Head of Business Support, Shelter
  • Matthew Cunningham, Business Support Team, Shelter

Paulita and John made contact with Shelter on the same day. Both had already dealt with a number of services that operated around them: housing applications had been made to their local councils; notices seeking possession had been served and court processes had been started; GPs and other health care professionals had been involved; enquiries at housing options and applications for housing benefit had been made. They lived in different cities, their stories are different, individual to them and their families, but what mattered to both is that they just wanted to live somewhere where they could feel settled and live the life they want to live with their family.

In this workshop you will explore the Vanguard Method for ‘Check’ to study how Shelter and other services responded to John and Paulita’s contact. We expect this will support you to learn about how:

  • a range of system conditions and management thinking has an impact on our service design
  • we are using what we’ve learned to re-design our own service response
  • we are developing our thinking on how to work with other organisations to improve the services that surround people just like John and Paulita.



  • Julie Jones, Service Manager, Supported Housing, Money, Home, Job, Walsall Council
  • Samantha Hanson, Assistant Team Manager, Transition and Leaving Care, Walsall Council

Julie and Sam studied Walsall’s supported housing service. This involved looking at who was asking for help, the type of help being asked for and how the system had let some people down. After a detailed analysis of the broader system, they took a specific look at the system faced by young homeless people, including examining what services were made available to them (‘the offer’), and in turn discovering that ‘the offer’ was rarely person-centred.

In response, Julie and Sam were able to consider different commissioning opportunities that better addressed people’s needs, offered better value for money and subsequently achieved better outcomes for the young people. On top of this, they were able to break down some of the barriers that were preventing delivery of an improved service, meaning they could better support young people into stable and secure accommodation. Julie and Sam have subsequently put their experience to use undertaking similar work in Children’s Social Care.


  • Sarah Paxton, Group Manager, Social Care and Housing, Torfaen County Borough Council
  • Jo Newman, Group Manager, Social Care and Housing, Torfaen County Borough Council

Find out how Torfaen County Borough Council has redesigned services across five geographic patches involving social workers, occupational therapists, community care workers and reablement assessors.

Learn how they changed professional practice at the front line, using frameworks that work. Hear about the challenges involved in moving away from specialist teams, removing eligibility screening and scaling up the new design.

Hear the team talk about the need for leaders, not managers and the importance of leadership momentum and commitment. Learn how they are enabling resilience by using a strength-based approach, positive risk taking and social inclusion.

Find out how practitioners feel about the new way of working, why there are so few crisis interventions now, why the number of commissioned services has fallen considerably and what the impact is on cost. The team will also focus on the measures they use, how they capture the data and why.

Keynote speakers

  • Dr Rick Hood, Associate Professor in Social Work, Kingston University and St Georges, London
  • Professor John Seddon, Founder of Vanguard Consulting
  • Richard Davis, author of ‘Responsibility and Public Services’
  • Joanne Gibson, Senior Consultant at Vanguard Consulting
  • Simon Pickthall, Senior Consultant at Vanguard Consulting

The event will take place at the Kingston Hill campus on the ground floor of the Business School building. Free on-site parking. Short bus ride or taxi journey from Kingston or Norbiton train stations. You can find further directions here.

Price per delegate £150 +VAT. To book your place, request a booking form or check availability of group discounts at

What do people say about the Vanguard Method?

It’s so bl***y obvious, so why do we get it so wrong?”
Julie Jones, Service Manager, Walsall Council

We had a financial and a service problem – we’ve solved both. We are very pleased with the outcome. Portsmouth City Council spends about 150 million pounds a year. We’re now looking to use this as our default approach to how we design services and possibly partner organisations too. The senior management and political perspective is this. We have an ambition to change the entire council.
Councillor Luke Stubbs, Deputy Leader of Portsmouth City Council

It’s been a breath of fresh air, it’s been really good. Bringing everything back to purpose, everything back to the service user which is what I came into social work for. It’s awoken the passion inside of me.
Alison Stephen, Higher Grade Social Worker, North Community Team, Portsmouth City Council

It’s lifted my sights in terms of what we can achieve in this authority with the resources we have. It’s lifted my perspective on how good services can be if they are appropriately designed.
Dave Adams, Lead Interventionist, Portsmouth City Council

“This is the most important thing you could do in your working life to make a difference”
Matthew Lowe, Senior Business Designer, Staffordshire County Council