As Group Chairman of Coastline Housing Derek Law is a respected and notable figure in social care. Care Talk caught up with Derek and asked his thoughts about the current challenges for the sector and what it means to be Outstanding.
Having recently been taken aback but delighted, humbled and honoured to be presented with the Outstanding Contribution to Social Care accolade at the Great South West Care Awards I was asked to define what Outstanding means to me.
My first spontaneous reaction was to say that this is really for others to judge. Thinking more deeply I believe it should be about making a real difference to the communities we work for and the people who live in them.
In making that difference it is also about valuing, supporting, rewarding and praising those frontline staff and managers who convert the ideas and strategies into delivered care services for people. Without their magnificent contributions a difference would just not be made. Good and effective partnerships also make a difference. Working together with others so much more can be done and achieved.
In my time as Director of Adult and Community Services at North Yorkshire County Council all of these ingredients came together. I was blessed with exceptionally talented and committed staff right across the sector who strived hard to deliver my vision and strategies for services in the community and did so with such positive outcomes for people who needed or used our services.
Good relationships already existed with Health, District Councils, Fire and Police but the icing on the cake was developing exceptionally positive partnerships with the Independent and Voluntary sectors.
Discussion between the partners were converted into a tangible range of traditional, innovative, preventative services that promoted independence and choice by superb frontline staff right across the care sector in North Yorkshire.
The tangible result was that North Yorkshire was officially assessed and defined by the Audit Commission as “a good place to grow old” in my time there. One of only two places at that time to be defined as such in the Country. That feels like making a difference and was certainly the proudest moment in my career.
All of this and more will be needed to face up to the challenges currently facing the care sector. I’m not saying anything new by restating the absolutely desperate funding crisis that gets worse year on year and could lead to widespread care market failure unless addressed. The funding gap between what Local Authorities can afford to pay and the real cost of care throws hard pressed providers into further difficulty as they also struggle with the challenge, and often dilemma, of retaining a stable, supported, skilled, good quality and caring workforce whilst paying them a fair wage. The recent Autumn Budget was a real disappointment in this regard, the Chancellor announcing an extra £6.3 billion additional funding for the NHS but nothing for Adult Social Care.
As the demand for social care continues to grow this year will see more older, vulnerable and disabled people not getting the care they need and an even greater toll being placed on the millions of family members and carers already struggling to manage. It’s also stating the obvious that health and social care services are interdependent so that the extra money for the NHS will not be as effective without additional funding for adult social care which remains perilously fragile.
As to the future for the care sector I’m optimistic the light will be seen. The Government is committed to publishing a Green Paper on Social Care this coming summer and I’m ever hopeful that it will be full of action to address the root of the care crisis not just words of intention and the usual rhetoric. I would though, strongly assert that the Government is much more likely to succeed in shaping a green paper fit for purpose to tackle the many challenges if it entered into a meaningful dialogue with the care sector to understand the issues now and in future years as demographic changes continue to impact.
Finally, I am optimistic because the care sector remains full of respected voices and innovators at all levels. That knowledge gives me the faith and confidence that our care staff will continue to play their part in making the most of technological advances, find new and innovative ways and care models and develop the partnerships necessary to deliver what will be needed to rise to the challenges. I already believe that our frontline staff and managers will always ‘make the difference’ at the point of delivery so let’s aspire to ensuring many more areas of the Country become good places to grow old.