Sleep-in ruling is not the answer 

Mark Milton, CEO of Ambient Support

The recent final ruling in the court of appeal on the Royal Mencap Society v Tomlinson-Blake and Shannon v Rampersad (t/a Clifton House Residential Home) case ends uncertainty in the health and social care sector but it is far from a victory for anyone involved.

Once again, the broken state of our health and social care system has been highlighted and the true inadequacies of the sector in its current form laid bare.

A final ruling has merely staved off the almost wholesale collapse of many of organisations and charities working with some of our most vulnerable. The ruling in its singularity is not the answer to this sorry state of affairs.

At Ambient Support, like many other providers, we have stretched the income that we have and the commitment of our staff teams to an unbelievable level in the last year. The recently published IPPR – State of Health and Social Care report state-of-health-and-care-mar21.pdf (ippr.org) clearly highlights now is the time for the government to act, now is the time to be bold and look at embracing the lessons that have been learnt during the pandemic to bring about comprehensive reform and change for the better.

This issue both begins and ends with money.  Money for our care and support workers to be paid a fair and decent wage for the long hours they work, for their selflessness and dedication to supporting some of the most vulnerable in society but it’s also about the blanket acceptance that to provide the highest possible quality of support the real cost of care needs to be paid to providers.  Money that can be invested into staff wages, training, into the professionalisation of the care sector.

The advent of the pandemic aligned with Ambient investing in our people to introduce Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) approaches into our work with people with a learning disability. This has provided us with an evidence-based framework to assess what quality of life means for them and for those around them. Four months into the pandemic here in the UK, we ventured that PBS was already appearing to be making an impact. https://www.bild.org.uk/is-being-the-new-doing-in-learning-disability-services-what-we-can-learn-from-pandemic-inactivity-activity  Across the country our teams today are ever more confident of that.

This is the start of a transformation programme for our charity, our staff teams and the people that we support.  We have 37 staff now accredited as PBS coaches and 8 staff members on their way to becoming accredited assessors. The introduction of PBS has raised morale amongst our teams and boosted their confidence in feeling equipped to support people even during the most challenging days during the past year.

However, this investment in training does not come cheap. Government and local authorities cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the fact that their contracts for services are heavily weighted on cost over and above quality of services almost every time.

So, whilst the ruling has saved many providers from forced closure, it has only further highlighted the many critical issues that need to be resolved to keep the social care system from collapse.

We all need to face some stark choices as we emerge from this unprecedented period, but I like many of my peers call upon government to finally see this as the opportunity that could turn a broken social care sector in the UK into a world class system, envied by others with sustained investment, reform and innovation.  The benefits of doing this for our society will far outweigh the financial costs in the longer term.


Edel Harris





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