Perhaps unsurprisingly social care reform is on my mind at the moment. The Government recently announced the new Health and Care levy and we await a white paper. Although there was a lot of coverage in the media I didn’t hear the voices of experts with lived experience, so here are some of my thoughts:
We shouldn’t wait for the government to describe what social care should be. At Social Care Future we co-produced this vision, “We all want to live in the place we call home with the people and things that we love, in communities where we look out for one another, doing the things that matter to us.” These things are what we all want from life and when you need some support they are just as important.
This is about people’s lives now. If this opportunity for reform is missed again or done badly then myself and the many others who draw on social care, their families and those who don’t qualify for support will be left unable to experience a full and equal life. People now who are approaching the end of their life deserve joined up, personalised care that allows them to be able to live their last days connected to the people and places that matter to them. And the people who work in social care need fair wages that recognise their skills and role they play enabling people to have good lives.
People who draw on social care, unpaid carers and frontline workers all have so much knowledge about what works well and ideas for what needs to change. And yet at the Secretary of State’s reform summit and at many conferences these voices are absent or hardly heard. A group of us with lived experience recently led an inquiry called ‘Whose care is it anyway?’ and in our first findings identified 5 key changes. They are:
1- Communities where everyone belongs
2- Living in the place we call home
3- Leading the lives we want to live
4- More resources, better used
5- Sharing power as equals
These are the things people told us mattered to them and should be at the heart of reform, yet these are not the main things heard in the discussions. Different voices need to be heard.
The conversation has started on funding. Although vital that the system is properly resourced and that cost and risk is more fairly distributed, I think we need to start by describing what social care should be, and then how to fund that. Money currently is often spent on services people don’t want. Some changes, for example trusting people to use their personal budgets more flexibly to meet their needs, does not cost more. Another challenge is the phrase ‘health and care’. Too often social care is being spoken about only to relieve pressure on the NHS or as the poor relation. As a sector we need to communicate the difference to people’s lives that good social care makes and the value it adds to society.
For people and communities to flourish we can’t keep doing what we are now or tinker with the system. We need to create a culture of innovation, co-production and personalisation. Only then will we have a social care that is something that everyone values and we can all be proud of.