A better way
In the last century our collective investment in the NHS and the wider welfare state helped bring about huge steps forward in the health and wellbeing of our country. Increased life expectancy, including a major reduction in infant mortality, greater prospects of survival into adulthood of children born with impairments and health conditions and a rapid growth in those aged 85 and over are some of the positive outcomes. One result is that there are more of us today that require support to live independently in our communities and to maintain our wellbeing.
We believe that it is possible for us all to reap this health and longevity dividend if we change how we think about and approach ‘social care’. To do so, we want to build a broad movement in pursuit of a hopeful, authentic, shared, story of change, just as radical and ambitious as that which delivered the massive improvements in health and wellbeing over the past 70 years.
We begin with a belief that we can do far better than offering only transactional ‘life and limb’ care. Rather, we believe that we can each be supported to make choices about where and with whom we live, on equal basis with others, to pursue our life goals and to be and feel connected to our wider community.
In our social care future, when we need support we will combine public and community resources with our own – shaping these to support us each to lead the lives we want to lead in our own homes and communities. We won’t be placed without de-facto choice into institutionalised places like large care homes or “units” far from home. If we choose to live elsewhere this will be small scale, person centred, usually organised by local community led enterprise or business. We won’t talk about “beds” and “placements” in this future.
We start with the knowledge that examples of doing things this better way are already with us. Innovators have been developing better approaches to support, management and ownership and the use of professional skills. Groups of people using social care and community organisations have led the development of mechanisms that can transfer power to them and organisations that can support individual and group advocacy. We want to help move these approaches from the margins to the mainstream.
A social movement is needed because power in the system rests with a set of interests facing little pressure or incentive to drive change while users of the system lack power and influence. Traditional approaches, operating within this structure, can’t drive transformational change – keeping innovation at the margins. A movement is needed to generate and focus effective challenge through co-ordinated application of people power and to grow public and political support for major change. This needs to be combined with the enrolment of supportive system and policy allies inspired by a new mission and supplied with radical but deliverable alternatives to the status quo.
Without this pressure, our national infrastructure and the settlement between citizens and the state regarding care and support will continue to lag behind, with profound social and economic implications for our and future generations. Already, talk of our longer lives typically characterizes them not as a gift, but as a pressure, a burden and a cost to be contained. In turn, this framing is proving a barrier to securing the reform and investment required. Much of what we call “social care” is stuck delivering last resort services and practices little changed in 30 years. It has yet to develop to reflect the society we have become and will become over the coming years and continues to offer a narrow range of often undesirable or institutionalised services.
After ten years of savage financial cuts the social care service system has had to find ways to survive, but in places has also become more open to exploring options that harness and make better use of resources beyond state-funded services. This convergence of effective alternatives, advocacy and system unsustainability offers an opportunity. There is a chance to unfreeze the current system and change it. However this won’t happen without a catalyst. There are many groups and organisations playing specific roles in this space but none that is focussed on finding the convergence across them and developing and executing a strategy flowing from this.
This is what #socialcarefuture is starting to do.
From vision to action – what we are doing?
We are growing a movement for change focused on three main elements:
- Demonstrating attractive solutions via coalitions of the willing and exemplars, enrolling progressive professionals and leaders on a new mission
- Changing the narrative – developing a “shared story of change” to energise the movement and build public and political support
- Challenging the status quo and growing confidence through success
So far we have:
- Issued a strong challenge to the system and call to action to those wanting radical change – using social media, blogs, gatherings and research
- Gathered and shared 40 plus written testimonies, critiques and analyses of the current system along with examples of approaches/places offering “glimpses of the future”
- Conducted research into media discourse and public thinking on social care, building interest in the production and dissemination of a new narrative
- Networked and sought out links with diverse groups.
- Connected with sector leadership and influencing groups to both challenge and explore possible alignments
The #socialcarefuture gathering in Manchester in November 2018 was successful in bringing together a large, diverse, group of people concerned about and prepared to act to bring about a better future for what we currently call social care. About 300 people attended plus many “walk ins” from the nearby NCASC18 conference. There was also a joint session with NCASC18 delegates which was very well attended and offered the opportunity for sharing and engagement on our issues and plans with system leaders. There has been significant publicity about the gathering and growing interest in both the ideas being generated and the potential momentum behind what could become a powerful movement.
As a result of the above, we now have a significant list of individual/local group commitments to action and offers of contribution including expertise, funding, organisation and several specific initiatives led and funded by relevant groups.
In the coming weeks and months we will be:
- Bringing together the main ideas, materials and plans as a resource for a wider audience to share and grow further momentum and action. We hope this will be ready in March.
- Continuing to publish leading-edge ideas and examples of innovation via the social care future blog.
- Supporting the initiatives that have already emerged out of or that are aligned to #socialcarefuture including aligned support for those places willing to take serious action on becoming “asset based areas”; radical re-framing of the narrative on social care to shift ambitions and garner public and hence political support; a “more than a provider” initiative; the national self-directed support network to close the Care Act rhetoric-reality gap and the Innovation Network launched by SCIE and TLAP in February 2019. Others are likely and are being pursued but at an earlier stage of development.
- Pursuing a social movement approach, with funding applications pending at the time of writing.
Our primary approach is to grow “coalitions of the willing” that forge the path ahead by building it, are not held back by moving at the pace of the slowest or feel a need to persuade everyone. However, we want to keep channels open and look for areas of alignment with system leaders where reasonable levels of engagement and effort can be of mutual benefit. We are also continually exploring links and connections with others who are working in connected spaces or who have ideas and approaches that can help us.
We will now consider how we take the opportunity created to build a major movement and to help catalyse serious change. In Spring/Summer 2019 we will gather those who are actively involved in the initiatives or in co-ordinating activity together for a session to connect activity and plan next steps strategy and action.
In the meantime, thank you for being part of #socialcarefuture.