Reflections on the last decade
There have been huge changes in social care. The most important being personal care budgets. We have seen a whole new approach to the engagement of people who use services in determining, planning and managing their care. Making it Real arrangements have supported this.
We also saw the welcome and very significant introduction of the Care Act. This has built on much of the thinking of the last decade and given a really firm foundation for the next decade. Unfortunately, it is being implemented in the toughest period of austerity. The last five years have seen a 31% reduction in adult social care funding, and the next two years are going to be very difficult. We have transformed our services, improved efficiency, cut services and maintained customer satisfaction. This is a tribute to the way in which this has been managed by local authorities. However, fewer people are receiving services and further reductions will impact on quality.
Although we’ve seen welcome and radical change in social care thinking and practice, it has probably also been the most challenging decade for social care.
Projections for the next decade
The next decade will continue to be very difficult in terms of resources. There are big opportunities, though, with devolution and integration; giving local authorities a real chance to help shape the future of health and social care services. As the NHS experiences some of the financial pressure that social care has experienced, there is an added incentive for joint-funded approaches to ensuring the right support is available in communities. The social care sector is very well-placed to lead this work.
If we don’t succeed in integration over the next decade, we may as well give up. We have a clear policy directive and the burning platform of austerity to push us into looking for more ways to do things differently. There is, however, a danger in assuming that integration saves money. There is no evidence of this, although if integration means joining services around individuals, it’s got to be better.
What is clear is that unless the intrinsic value that social care provides to society is recognised with reasonable funding, there will be no social care services to integrate. I believe we need a concerted campaign to promote awareness of social care. This needs to include the whole spectrum of voices across the sector. Social care must be viewed in the same light as the NHS when it comes to funding. ADASS’ call for social care to be protected and aligned with the NHS is more important than ever.
I have worked in social care for 39 years, I trained as a social worker in South Africa and then in the UK. I’ve been Director of Adult Social Services for Norfolk County Council for 11 years. Norfolk is a fascinating place to work, with all of the challenges of delivering social care in remote rural communities, in a county with a rapidly increasing population of older people. My role as ADASS President is only three weeks old and I’m finding out, on a daily basis, quite how big it is. There is huge support from director colleagues who I am already leaning on heavily for advice! I have five priorities for the year ahead: the funding gap; raising the profile of social care and the imperative need for this to be properly funded; integration; ensuring that social work with adults has the same status as social work with children; social care markets, in particular, homecare; carers and responding to the new Carers’ Strategy.
Someone described being President of ADASS as being similar to running in a relay: you have the baton for a short time before you pass it on, so you have to make as much of it as you can without dropping it!
I think it’s not always the obvious encounters with people that you’d describe as having had the biggest influence on you. Social care provides a mass of these encounters, too many to name.
The best advice I was given when I first became a manager was to accept that you will make lots of mistakes!
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