Caroline Gitsham, Director of Gentoo Living, writes about the CIH/Tunstall Delivering housing, health and care outcomes summits, the development of Gentoo Living and developing services that have been challenged.

Gentoo Living was invited to the summit to present a ‘view from the front’. Here, I felt it was important to explain how Gentoo is reshaping its services through partnership working, as well as focusing on our shift to preventative community-based services.

To introduce the work of Gentoo, and because our values are so deeply embedded in all that we do, it made sense to start out by explaining a bit about our vision – to ‘improve the art of living beyond imagination’. It’s certainly a vision that is guiding the evolution of the Gentoo Group, which (for those who don’t know) is a stock transfer organisation. My talk also covered a brief history of Gentoo Living, the growing community support division of the Group, which was born from a fusion of four different parts of the umbrella organisation with an aim to maximise social capital from every pound spent. Gentoo Living now spends £5m and brings in £1.5m. We employ 140 people and reach 10,000 customers across the north east of England. These days we often get other providers saying they wished they had a Gentoo Living and we always say, you have – you just might not call it that!

So, we felt that the writing was on the wall for Supporting People and we were facing a lot of new challenges relating to the potential merger of the Supporting People contracts with the care contracts. And, if we didn’t start offering care, we weren’t offering support. This led to greater innovation as we set about reinventing the way people receive care in what was, at least to Gentoo, a new sector. To this end, we started taking a greater interest in the care agenda and partnered with the social franchise Sunderland Home Care Associates. Then, as Supporting People came to an end, we entered into a £1m 50/50 partnership with Sunderland City Council. A partnership that went on to develop a personalised Wellbeing Service that now reaches around 3,000 people aged 65+ in the City.

Another thread of my talk was about how to best engage with the health sector and commissioners. Here, our advice is based on organisations dedicating sufficient resources to developing relationships, especially following what has been a massive period of change in the field of health. For example, we are working closely with Sunderland City Council to improve outcomes and develop programmes across the public health sector.

I also felt it important to outline the outcomes of Streetwise, Gentoo’s web-based case management system that helps to protect people and the communities in which they live. I spoke briefly about working in partnership with the North East Dementia Alliance and about Gentoo’s success in using telecare and assistive technology as part of Healthwise. Healthwise is a project based around a preventative software tool for increasing early diagnosis rates of dementia.

Overall, my experience of the housing sector is that we’re normally a pretty creative, innovative bunch and we now need to play to those strengths.

If ever there was a time, the time is now.

Find out more about Gentoo

Read the report Delivering housing, health and care outcomes

Tunstall will be attending the CIH Annual South West Conference from 2-4 April at Palace Hotel, Torquay.

Photo: L-R: Peter Hay, Caroline Gitsham, Kevin Beirne and Domini Gunn