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the future of adult social care

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Adult Social Care has just published “The Future of Adult Social Care” publication eight year after The Dilmot report on the future funding of social care. The inquiry’s evidence came from an online survey asking respondents about the quality of care received. What is interesting is that only 23.7% of survey’s respondents came from personal experience of receiving adult social care either personally or through a family member. And that 75.3% came from respondents working in a variety of sector roles covering social care, occupational therapists, commissioners of services and heath.

The results from the survey found that respondents scored 7.6/10 for social care having the capacity to make a transformational and substantial impact upon disabled peoples’ lives. Care workers gave a 7/10 rating for feeling their work is rewarding despite social care being perceived as a low paid and low status job. These scores does not tell us anything new, as we all know that good quality social care provides disabled people opportunities to participate in all areas of life that non-disabled people take for granted.

“The Future of Adult Social Care” report’s recommendations are as follows:

  • The APPG on social care should plays it role by engaging with government, policy makers, parliamentarians and wider adult social care sector to help facilitate a debate as to what the future of social care should look like.

  • A cross-party political consensus around the solutions required to develop and strengthen an adult social care system.

  • Social Care users are fully involved in the co-design and co-production of adult social care services.

  • There should be stronger focus on adult social care as an enabler to help care and support people to live more independently, with a more positive portrayal of the value and benefits of working in the sector, with a greater appreciation by wider society of the value and high skills of the workforce.

  • Health and Social Care have parity of esteem

  • The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care should be encouraged to use their full title and wear an adult’s social care badge alongside the NHS badge, to help raise the public profile of adult social care services.

  • The Government should build on existing good practice to promote good practice across adult social care sector including in areas of commissioning policies, the delivery of high quality services by providers and investing in training for the workforce.

  • Personalisation of care and support should be encouraged with individuals having more said and control over the delivery of their care services.

The recommendations are ones that have been repeatedly said time and time again. What is noticeability absence are any specific actions and solutions that have been agreed between various political parties. Without cross party consensus, social care will continually remain a divided issue subject to political ping-pong.

Unlike social care, the NHS seems to escape any deep rooted austerity cuts, possibly because a significant proportion of the population rely upon and use the universal state-funded medical services. Further, given the biggest group of service users are the baby-boomers with strong records of voting, it is not surprising that the NHS will continue to be funded at a higher level than other public services including social care. Whenever social care is spoken about, it is often associated with poor and hardworking elderly people who have worked all their lives and having to sell their homes in order to fund their own social care. There is often very little discussion about social care users, who are not pensioners as politicians seem to still see them as a burden on the state.

The Dilmot report on the future of social care funding provided useful recommendations that could start the political debate for a long term funding strategy, such as the one afforded for the national health care service. If we are going to see a real investment in social care, there will need to be a political consensus firstly about the value and benefits of social care for everyone needing it regardless of age, impairment and financial background. So, there is a need for a shared narrative around social care.

Equally, there needs to be a shared view that social care is a valued profession that should be on par with healthcare workers, many of them requiring on-the-job training. Whilst, I do not want to see the medicalisation of social care profession, nevertheless they do take on many of the responsibilities and tasks, once overseen by district and community nurses.

Social Care gets a policy shake-up every few years by not only who is in Government, but who the Minister is responsible for overseeing the social care sector. Government, working with cross-party politicians together with social care users and those working at the cool face or at management level and political decision makers should be involved in designing a social care system. It may be that the social care system could be developed outside politics but can be supported by cross-party politicians.

Pay is often determined by Government legislation, policy and regulation. With local authorities receiving less funding from the Government and the compulsory tendering that takes place periodically, what is often the only consideration is unit price where care workers are placed on zero hour contracts with minimum rights. With cross party consensus there is no reason why certain minimum standards around the employment conditions, training, pay and quality of care provision are not included in contracts, prescribed by law.

Dealing with social care will require long-term solutions, which will take longer than five years to implement and must be prioritised regardless of the state of the economy. And now a decade has passed without a single political party governing the UK, reaching out for cross party support is becoming more and more important.

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