A social movement for “social care”?

by Martin Routledge – #socialcarefuture



People are being poorly served by institutional service models and practices in what we currently call “social care”. These approaches have proved resilient and resistant to change for decades despite the emergence of better, small scale, community embedded alternatives. A social movement is now needed to unleash the drive for big change. It is needed to unfreeze the “social care sector” which is largely stuck in delivering a very limited range of pre-determined options to people struggling to have any meaningful power or influence over them. Beyond this, the very term “social care” limits our imagination and thinking about what people, families and communities should expect and help create in 21st Century Britain.

It’s time to shift better ways of doing “social care” from the margins to the mainstream and think bigger about what we can do together to promote well-being, inclusion and independent living for us all. How can people and communities control their own lives and thrive, workers have fulfilling jobs, places be prosperous and inclusive? There are many things holding back this true transformation. If we look at current social care provision we see governance, ownership, and organisational arrangements that reflect its institutional and professional roots, dramatically limiting the potential for a big shift. In addition, existing understanding and framing of the key issues with the media and public strongly inhibit political prioritisation for this change. The current Green Paper dance reflects decades of political stasis. The awful cuts of recent years have just added to this potent mix of factors, freezing the majority of formal leaders and sector organisations into putting all energies into largely failing attempts to secure funds to maintain the status quo.

It is increasingly clear that there is no simple solution or single body that can change this such as national policy, the regulator, local government organisations etc. Because we face powerful forces sustaining existing models and practice and limiting ambition and a lack of public knowledge and engagement, we need an approach that can powerfully influence both the social care sector and the wider public in a connected and complimentary way. We need to generate and grow a compelling new mission, motivating those who work within and direct social care and other public services and we need public engagement to generate challenge to existing approaches and demand new ones. From this we can build political priority.

We believe that it is right and possible to build a new approach that replaces our current social care and that helps realise people’s potential and well-being, that is co-created by the people, families and communities it matters to and that leads to ‘on tap not on top’ public services and professional assistance, happens in people’s homes and communities and is human sized and shaped.

So far, our informal and voluntarily organised network has been working to reach out to other networks, groups and organisations interested in making a big shift. These include people and families who use social care, professionals and their organisations, innovators, support providers, managers and politicians. We have started to help grow communications between them and gathered their “glimpses of the future” including via the https://socialcarefuture.blog/ series. We held a two day gathering of 300 people in November 2018 in Manchester and engaged with about 200 formal system leaders (managers and politicians) meeting in Manchester at the same time https://socialcarefuture.files.wordpress.com/2018/11/session-detail-final.pdf . We have also been linking with major sector organisations to explore joint interests and concerns. Following this we have helped catalyse a range of initiatives being taken forward by many people and groups and are working to link these together for mutual support. These are built around “coalitions of the willing”. They are not about persuading those who don’t see the need for this scale of change and they won’t move at the pace of the slowest. They are about taking the glimpses of the future already happening in some places and linking people to support more of these things to happen.

Those of us involved in #socialcarefuture have become deeply concerned at the absolute dominance and reliance on “crisis messaging” in social care allied to an uninspiring and limited vision of what can be done and how. This extends to leading NGOs, government bodies, local government organisations, local leaders and all political parties – with, of course many honourable exceptions. We fear these messages are having unproductive counter-effects, undermining, rather than aiding their overt goals and the wider cause. Research has confirmed our belief that achieving the change we seek will demand that we craft a new compelling story of possibility which is capable of distilling what we want to see while fostering productive thinking and wide support. We believe that the process of developing this new story and getting it out there are crucial steps. A core activity must therefore be to build on what we have been learning about “framing” in other fields where movements have brought about big change. We aim to build a new, optimistic, ambitious story with many people, test it and then use it to both drive a new mission amongst those in the social care world and to get the public behind goals and ambition that have real importance and meaning for them.

In the next few weeks we will be sharing more detail about the ideas and actions that have been generated so far and invite more people to join in and build a real social movement. What do you think? We’d love to hear other’s thoughts and ideas and link with you to build an unstoppable momentum

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