Martin Routledge challenged me to blog about
social care as part of a quest to get a range of views from people
in the social care field. Follow them on #socialcarefuture. I have so
much to say about what is needed for a good social care so for the
sake of brevity, I have condensed a wide range of thoughts down
into my #socialcarefuture wish list...
1. Money can't buy you love.
I'm going to get this one out of the way quickly, we need more
money to pay for care and support. Local authorities do not have
enough money to pay for the care and support needed in their
communities and they need more. Providers are facing a broad
onslaught of issues and regulatory changes that mean that care
costs more. What we don't need however is any more money being
spent on care and support that doesn't enhance people's lives. We
need social care that helps give people something to get up for
every morning and recognises people as valuable human beings that
happen to need a bit more help than most of us, not a drain on
No doubt that times are tough but I've also been through times
when there has been a lot of money sloshing around and people were
still not getting the care and support they wanted and needed. More
money does not automatically equate to better services, we need a
BIG rethink on what social care is and does that makes it something
that we are all invested in for our own futures.
I want to see a care and support system that enables the people
that use it to experience love, friendships and relationships, have
meaning in their lives and be valued and contributing members of
their communities. I don't want to keep paying for what doesn't
2. Put our brands and egos away and put our money into enabling
disabled people and families to speak truth to power.
The social care narrative and debate often feels very
paternalistic. That's because it usually comes from professionals
and organisations that represent professionals and organisations. A
narrative peppered with beds, crises, the vulnerable, the
disabled....blah blah blah. When if you listen to people that need
social care, their families and those (often small and
not well funded) organisations doing brilliant stuff you will
hear the kind of narrative and debate that connects with people,
and not just people involved in social care.
Please, please, please can those people and organisations that
have power, money and the ear of those in power get behind these
more authentic voices so that they can be heard and we have a
chance of changing this sorry situation.
3. Communicate better about what social care is - no-one
cares about 'social care'.
I rarely use the term social care in my work or home life. It
somehow feels so broad it is a bit meaningless to me. It is used to
describe such a wide area of care, support and funding; social
work, personal budgets, direct payments, community services,
personal assistants, home care residential care, supported
living...the list goes on.
If you ask the average person what social care is, most people
don't really know how broad it is and what it does. As an
(unscientific) experiment, I just asked the person sitting next to
me on the train what they thought social care was. Answer: social
workers for children and carers that come to old people's houses to
look after them.
Yet we have conversations about 'social care' as if it is one
thing. We talk about the needs of a wide group of people under one
banner when the reality is that the needs of children and families
is vastly different from disabled adults which are also very
different from those of older people.
If we want to understand what we are really taking about
ourselves, let alone the media, general public and politicians, we
really need to start understanding and communicating much better
about what social care really is.
It also doesn't help that we have adopted industry jargon that
is meaningless even to most people that use social care. It's no
wonder that most people don't care about social care.
4. Personal budgets are not an evil way of privatising public
services, nor are they the magic solution to making social care
Personal budgets and direct payments really work for some people
and not for others. There I said it. I was one of the people that
was evangelistic about them and I genuinely believed that they were
THE solution for social care and continuing healthcare. I still
think that they are great but I think that they are a small part of
reforms that are needed. I want to see more focus on reforming
commissioning so that people have a real say in local services and
it is transparent, regulated and accountable. It is scandalous that
so much crap is still being commissioned and we need local
mechanisms to stop this, of which a part of is personal
If we stop commissioning the crap we may end up with a regulator
that can regulate more effectively instead of constantly fire
5. Stop investing everything in 'the next big
thing/programme/pilot/vanguard and work on the basics to getting
care and support right.
Don't know about you but I can barely make myself read about THE
NEXT BIG THING. It's usually good stuff so don't take this as a
criticism friends and colleagues, but it is exhausting to see
another reorganisation, integration, programme, initiative, set of
standards etc. when there are so many basic things that need
Like how to make sure that disabled and older people are getting
the support they need to live the lives they want and;
How to make sure that we pay those in care and support roles a
wage they deserve for one of the most important jobs in our society
How we make sure that no one is getting substandard or dangerous
care and support.
If there is going to be A NEXT BIG THING could it be that we
stop tinkering with systems (that are flawed and will always be
flawed) and just form relationships, talk to each other locally,
have good conversations, listen to what the people who use social
care and their families want and do what you can. If you can't
do what people want, tell them and ask for their help to find
solutions as they will usually have some answers.
Lastly 6. People who need care and support also have a lot to
We need to stop framing people who use social care as simply
vulnerable and needy as not only are we feeding perceptions that a
whole group of people are a drain on our society but it simply
isn't true. Whether you are 105 years old and living in a care
home or have profound learning disabilities and don't use words to
communicate, everyone has something to give. Who wasn't
inspired by the care homes that are working with nurseries? Or the
examples of people with learning disabilities that help their older
neighbours by picking up groceries and walking the dog, or
volunteer in their local nursery or school to look after
My wish would be for housing, care and support providers to come
out of their silos and shift their focus towards becoming community
builders, community connectors and rights activists alongside the
people they house or support to deal with some of our social
problems such as rising mental ill health and loneliness. To enable
the people they support to help their communities, get jobs, give
and receive education and demonstrate that the value of human
beings is much more than just economic productivity. We need older
and disabled people to be central to our communities so that all
our children grow up with people that are too often hidden from
them, and our communities don't miss out on what disabled and older
has been developed to create a space, including a gathering in
November, for a wide range of people and voices to debate and take
action for a positive future.
We want to get past just thinking about stabilising the
current system which isn't fit for the future. We want to make a
contribution to a much more positive vision, share what's going on
now that helps get us there, and find ways of supporting each other
as we build the future.
In Control is part of the informal group supporting
#socialcarefuture and as part of this we are hosting this blog
series. Many people will be blogging and their views are their