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Person centred social care – is it too much to ask?

By Kate Parker

16 November 2018
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You could hear a pin drop as the all too familiar stories were told. One from a council worker who is trying to provide assistance to an elderly couple in their home. His physical condition is deteriorating, but the only person whom his wife – managing some mental health issues of her own – trusts to let in the house is their social care worker. The couple want to know who this unfamiliar nurse is as he arrives, and the care worker makes a throw away comment “Oh – he’s much more important than I am”. And yet, without that care worker’s trusted relationship and the sheer persistence of the service providers to try and work together, they would be undoubtedly have missed another week of treatment, putting them at a higher risk of losing their independence and increasing the strain on other public services.

The other was explaining how those who are making money from our social care model are the funders right at the very top; so far removed from Mary who sometimes needs to fit in as many as 50 visits a day. But because she doesn’t get paid for the travel time in between, is taking home nearer to £4/hour. Nowhere near minimum wage let alone a fair Living Wage.

The case for funding and reform is abundantly clear

The system is desperately broken, and we are at the critical point in the future of social care in the UK. The budget brought little respite from the funding crisis, so there is a lot riding on the overdue green paper and the comprehensive spending review in the spring. Being in a room full of frustrated people from the sector on Wednesday night the case for funding and reform was abundantly clear.

Andy Burnham declared a bold vision for what the future could look like, some of which they are already piloting in Manchester. Christina McAnea talked about how our neighbouring EU countries are raising quality of care. Janet Morrison highlighted their research on how we might pay for it. Lord David Prior, Chair of the NHS, agreed that a 21st century NHS needs to be one where it supports people with dementia as well as it currently supports people with cancer.

For me there were four elements that really resonated and I’m sure I’m not alone. I want to see;

  • Person (not patient) centred care – integrated cross sector teams working as part of a wider community, focused on prevention
  • A focus on people as assets – considering the dignity and aspirations of those needing care no matter their age
  • Better targeted information and advice – with simplicity and clarity at its heart
  • The people who have solutions to be involved in the conversation – helping us navigate through the huge amount of change that lies ahead

28% of adults in the UK think that social care is free

28% of adults in the UK think that social care is free[1] and whilst that is certainly my aspiration, it is unfortunately not the case. We’ve spent the last decade looking in depth at the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population and a sustainable social care system is the most important challenge to overcome. We’ve worked with social care providers and charities with a stake in social care to help them get their voice heard on the debate. But we can’t afford to wait for, or rely on, government to come up with a workable solution, we need to get the public putting more pressure on and push the issue to the top of the political agenda, locally and nationally.

Recently we’ve helped push the agenda around loneliness, a similarly complex issue, to the front of hearts and mind through our work with Campaign to End Loneliness. We’re building resilient communities through our work with the Eden Project and HelpForce, bringing people together to forge connections and helping tackle the increasing strain on our health service. And we’ve helped navigate young people with disabilities through a complicated system through our work with National Children’s Bureau.

We can’t afford to wait for, or rely on, government to come up with a workable solution

And while we wait for the politician to be brave, there are solutions that exist. There is a huge amount of people delivering on the frontline every day, innovating for change and who passionate about their work. We want to help those organisations increase their reach, influence and ultimately their impact, helping the most vulnerable people in our society. If you’ve big ambitions for making a difference then I’d love to chat.