Celebration and optimism at #socialcarefuture

By John Popham

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On 14th and 15th November I was privileged to be part of Social Care Future, providing live video streaming as well as recorded video for later use. Social Care Future, held in Manchester, was an optimistic and celebratory event aiming to change the debate on social care, present options for alternative delivery mechanisms in the sector, and change the public’s perception of it. While everyone present recognised that there are severe problems facing social care, particularly funding, there was a collective willingness among the people at the event to build new ways of working which go a long way to solving the obstacles.

Social Care Future was held where and when it was so that it could act as something of a fringe event to the big NCASC (National Children and Adult Services Conference) taking place across the road at Manchester Central. I saw a similar idea in action a few years ago when the HouseParty events were held alongside the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) Conference, and I think there is evidence that these had quite an influence on how the CIH has operated in subsequent years.

For me, Social Care Future was an intense two days, as the event took place in two separate venues, the Friends Meeting House, and the People’s History Museum, and I was required to video and stream sessions in both venues, which are 10 minutes walk apart. But once I had drawn breath, pressed record on the cameras, and had the opportunity to stand back and observe, I was struck by the atmosphere of optimism. This was not social care as depicted in the media. There were two big differences from that image; the first being that it was a collection of people making social care work in a variety of ways, despite the funding difficulties; the second difference was that the people and organisations present were focused on how social care can play a part in ensuring everyone can play a full role in society, not treating people as recipients of services. There was a key focus on promoting the human rights of people who use social care services.

The was a dedicated session on re-framing the public perception of social care, led by Neil Crowther. You can see the archived live video from this session here. I was particularly interested in this session, given my own work in this sphere (see here, here and here). The abiding messages in this section concerned the gulf between the public’s view of the sector, which is dominated by the cost of care and views recipients of social care services as a burden on the state, and that of the people in the room. As Neil and colleagues pointed out, we are very close to the tipping point where the public views social care as a crisis incapable of solution, and it is therefore vital that positive viewpoints are propagated to counter this.  Being positive in this context is not to paint a rosy picture in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, it is a vital step in building public support for measures to rebuild and improve provision as well as towards winning the case for a viable funding settlement.

After two days of celebrating some great practice in the sector, Chief Inspector at the Care Quality Commision, Andrea Sutcliffe, facilitated a session where  the findings of the event were presented to representatives of NCASC, providing direct and tangible output immediately from the gathering.

For me the next step will be to work with the organisers to craft some messages coming from the event to be accompanied by video material. This has to be part of a major thrust to shift public perceptions of social care, which encompasses a focus on protecting and promoting the human rights of service users, harnessing the power of communities and families to ensure that care is not completely left to professionals, and to build a consensus around a new funding deal for the sector.

It is my mission in life to harness the power of the internet to tell stories about how and why people work to make others’ lives better. Live streaming events which promote positive change is a key tool in this, as is working with change makers to craft social media and video messages which promote their cause. My work with Social Care Future encompasses both of these strands. If you want to relive the first Social Care Future Event, or catch up on it for the first time, there is a playlist of the live videos here.

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I left Manchester filled with feelings of optimism and hope, and with the belief that I had seen the beginnings of a movement for change. One that doesn’t ignore the problems facing the social care sector, but which is built on the belief that it is vital to provide role models for the kinds of change you want to see. I look forward to seeing the next steps.

John Popham is a Civic Storyteller with a background in local government, further education, social housing and the voluntary sector. His blog and contact details can be found at http://johnpopham.wordpress.com. He tweets at https://www.twitter.com/johnpopham

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