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  • Writer's pictureCharity Chat Podcast

E144 - Social Care With Kari Gerstheimer

“If we can work together, and if we collaborate then I think we can reimagine the social care system and the access to justice system.” - Kari Gerstheimer

In this episode, we speak with Kari Gerstheimer, Chief Executive of Access Social Care, a charity that provides free legal advice to people who require social care. We discuss access to social care support, the impact of coronavirus and effective leadership in the third sector.

1. Accessing social care

We speak about the significance of Access Social Care’s mission, to support people who require access to social care. Currently millions of people in the UK are denied access; therefore they require Legal Aid, free legal advice to understand their rights to care.

Access Social Care runs a subscription based membership model. They provide support in three main ways. First, helping people with social care needs. Access Social Care helps people to better understand how to utilise the law for better outcomes. Second, they support as many people as they can, working with 150 lawyers who offer their work on a pro bono basis. They’re also in the process of developing a legal chat box which will enable more people to have access to legal advice. Third, they help organisations to collect data which enables them to action evidence-based casework and campaigning.

2. How covid has impacted the work of Access Social Care

During the pandemic, Kari has seen an increased demand for the services Access Social Care provides. The number of people seeking advice about social care has increased over the pandemic. Kari recognises that Local Authorities’ need to ‘balance their books’ and that it has been challenging for people to access the care they need.

Initiatives such as having a cloud-based system before the pandemic has allowed Access Social Care to continue their work smoothly. Also, collaborating on data projects has helped Access Social Care to capture data such as identifying that there has been a 300% increase for help from helplines.

Kari highlights how BAME communities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Kari feels that Access Social Care has a duty to reach out to BAME communities, and has worked with user-led organisations who haven’t traditionally been heard.

Access Social Care have assessed their current membership model, looking at ways in which they can better include BAME organisations. This includes funders subsidising membership costs, looking internally at board and recruitment practices and creating space for staff to positively challenge others.

3. Effective leadership

Kari cites creating an environment where people can do their job as a key leadership and organisational success at Access Social Care. This is because people feel empowered to make their own decisions and it creates a work environment that is fun. Kari believes that the most effective leaders help everyone in their team to lead in their own way.

As most staff at Access Social Care have children, it has meant that people have brought their ‘whole selves’ to work over the pandemic. Therefore this last year, Kari has highlighted the importance of staff wellbeing, as staff have also had a challenging year in their personal lives. We hope you enjoy this week’s episode, which is brought to you by our platinum sponsor Charity People.

Related episodes that you may be interested in:

E103: Mental Health in the Workplace with Emma Mamo

E65: Bosses vs Leaders with Greg Warner

E62: Directors Giving Direction with Jason Rigby


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