“Our priorities are digitalizing the system and making it less bureaucratic”

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“Our priorities are digitalizing the system and making it less bureaucratic”

Visions interviewed Meritxell Benedí. Historian, social and political activist, and currently a key player in public management. She shared her views on social and health integration, governance, planning and the transformation of ICT in the social sphere, while describing her experiences on the ideal scenario for continuing to grow and improve public healthcare.

Visions. Meritxell Benedí. Chapter 3.

Visions interviewed Meritxell Benedí. Historian, social and political activist, and currently a key player in public management. She shared her views on social and health integration, governance, planning and the transformation of ICT in the social sphere, while describing her experiences on the ideal scenario for continuing to grow and improve public healthcare.

Visions. Meritxell Benedí. Chapter 3.

1. Strategic priorities

So Meritxell, at the planning level how is your department organized?

MB. Currently, the Directorate General of Social Services, a newly created management structure, is planning social services. So far we have planned the institutionalization: residences, day-care centres, etc. Eventually we wish to plan the entire system.

VB. What are your priorities?

MB. Our priority is digitizing the system and de-structuring it. When we introduce digitalization, what we need is to adopt tools which better-enable the work of social service professionals.

VB. What are the tools or elements which help you?

MB.We have bodies such as the General Council of Social Services, which is provided under the Social Services Law, in which all the stakeholders within the sector are represented: these include professional colleges, as well as local entities, such as the employer’s office, trade unions and other departments belonging to the Generalitat which are involved in social action in one way or another.

We also have the Territorial Councils of Basic Social Services, the COTESSBAs, which are spaces for consultation, planning and the drawing up of territorialised models.

“Our priorities are digitalizing the system and making it less bureaucratic”

2. Integration of health and social care

VB. (Nodding). Let’s change the topic a little and talk about the integration of health and social care. Could you tell me what you see this concept to be, and if there’s a joint strategy invovling the two ministries: the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs and the Ministry of Health.

MB.It’s clear that we need to work in collaboratoin with the health system to improve people’s healthcare, that is, guarantee the care continuum and person-centred care. And above all, to work preventively. If we want a system of universal health coverage, we have to help people throughout their whole lives. Which is why we need prevention and interaction with other systems. We need to help more people earlier in order to help fewer people later. And integration with other systems is a fundamental element in this.

“Help more people earlier in order to help fewer people later”

VB. Do you feel the social sector takes the lead in this regard?

MB. The third sector is constantly innovating, since it sees social changes as key. And in fact, the Taula d’Entitats del Tercer Sector has a project, m4Social, in which the ministry participates, to promote technological innovation in the IT systems used by NGOs. There’s also the Fundació iSocial, which was created to foster such technological innovation in IT systems in the third sector.

VB. Then, as an aside, one of the things which might be necessary is to make more of an effort to communicate the need and this universality. Do you agree?

MB. Yes, it’s a matter which I’ve felt strongly about since the creation of the General Directorate of Social Services; And it’s the need we have to communicate, not only as a General Directorate but as the Catalan Social Services System as a whole. Since only if we are able to explain what the system does and what happens when it’s not there, will we be able to make the whole society feel like it needs to use this system. And therefore we strongly urge the public administrations to take care of the system.

“The third sector is constantly innovating since it sees social changes as key”

3. Social inclusion and ICT

VB. What causes the so-called digital divide or digital gap?

MB. Well, there are certain types of technology to which everyone has access. Then there are the great technological solutions to which not everyone has access. But as public authorities we have the obligation to create IT systems which will bridgew this gap.

VB. Do you think enough work is done within the community? That is, maybe we do a lot at the institutional level, with organizations… But ultimately, working on people’s real day-to-day problems… Do you think we do enough? Should we do more on the front line?

MB. When you say “we”, who are you referring to?

VB. There are people who say that a lot of work is being done in terms of ideas but that the hard graft has been left to one side somewhat.

MB. By the Social Services System do you mean?

VB. People who work in this field.

MB. I can’t agree with this statement. On the  contrary. You only have to visit a Primary Health Care team to see that the front line is alive and that it deals with reality.

A great deal of work is done on the front line, what happens is that there is excessive bureaucracy, that it lacks IT systems or a digitalization process which takes on the bureaucratic workload or low-value tasks in order to be free people up for the important tasks. This is precisely where we are focusing the Strategic Plan for Social Services: in the need to strengthen primary care, to provide community care and to work in preventative medicine. With this idea of ​​caring for more earlier on in order to care for fewer people later on.

“As public authorities, we have the obligation to employ IT systems which will bridge the digital divide”

 

VB. I asked you the last question because we often talk a lot about putting the person at the centre, empowering them… But are we really doing so? Or is it just a declaration of intent and we still need to reach this point, really, to empower and put the person at the centre?

MB. Putting the individual at the centre or person-centred healthcare takes place in so many services and in many areas of the system. I’ll say once again: with the Strategic Plan for Social Services, the proposal we are working on and we will quite likely be presenting is the following: to achieve not only individual actions, such as interaction with other systems, but also, at the global level, in the field of the organization of the system, we are prepared to focus on the individual.

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