A council care manager has worked out how to drastically cut down on form-filling at Hampshire County Council. As a result, Paul Burrows has now been voted Council Worker of the Year.
Votes piled up for Paul in an X-Factor style poll which came to a head at a gala dinner held by the Local Government Association in Birmingham last night (July 5).
Paul, who invented a single computerised form to replace 28 others used in managing care services for older people, is contemplating a switch from full to part-time hours at work because of a flare-up in his ME and fibromyalgia symptoms.
"Not long after I qualified as a social worker, I got severe sinusitis which just wouldn't go away", said 44-year-old Paul, who is also profoundly deaf.
"It was then diagnosed as ME and fibromyalgia and, at one stage, I was off work for 16 months. It wasn't just tiredeness. It was real lethargy – my muscles felt as though they didn't have anything in them. And the illness remains prevalent today."
Eventually he returned to work for a trial five hours a week. Rather than twiddling his thumbs in the office while pacing himself through his ME, he started sorting out the paper mountain of forms that social workers had to fill in to complete the assessment process.
Once, clients' records were written out by hand before being logged and approved again, with information duplicated and rewritten several times. Paul's handwriting was bad so he taught himself to use computers, and his quest to streamline processes and systems began.
The result was the single form. With the help of assistive technologies to overcome his deafness, he is now training 300 other staff across Hampshire in its use.
Council leader Ken Thornber reckons that Paul's invention will save 10 man-years every year, cut costs and free up social workers to spend more time seeing clients. "We're very proud that Paul's initiative has been singled out this way", he said.
Paul, who also has a son with severe speech and language impairment, believes that: "A problem is a solution waiting to be found".
He was one of 24 people across the UK who had been been nominated for the Council Worker of the Year Award run by the Local Government Association.