Talking about a Brighter Social Care Future

Don’t we all want to live in the place we call home with the people and things that we love, doing what matters to us in communities where we all look out for one another?   Isn’t that what great care and support should help to protect and promote for everyone?

To achieve this, we need to invest together.  Government must find a way to increase the amount of funding available. But to be sustainable, reforms are needed to unlock the already abundant resources and power to make change that exists in communities across our country.

This is the emerging vision that binds together the diverse network of individuals and organisations that have united under the banner of #socialcarefuture. Unfortunately, our new research, ‘Talking about a Brighter Social Care Future’, published today, finds that our vision isn’t the story of social care being told to, heard by and understood by the public today.  That is to say, our vision doesn’t fit in the current frame.

Why is this important? As Professor George Lakoff has explained ‘Frames are mental structures that shape the way we see the world. In politics our frames shape our social policies and the institutions we form to carry out policies. To change our frames is to change all of this. Framing is social change.’ If we want to achieve the structural and systemic changes needed to move our vision from the margins to the mainstream, we need to change the way social care is talked and thought about.   In short, we need a new frame.

This is why, alongside our report, we are today also delighted to be launching a major new project to research and develop a new way to talk about the social care future we are striving for, with financial and in kind support from a number of partners.

Today’s report is a modest first step in beginning to understand current thinking and contemplating how we might go about this task. In ‘Talking about a brighter social care future’ we have explored how a sample of campaigning organisations and networks talk about social care in their campaign materials, we’ve looked at how the print media has talked about social care over the past two years and we have looked at evidence of how the public thinks about social care. Doing so has revealed a number of common themes and patterns, pointing to some dominant ‘frame elements’ in the way social care is discussed and thought about and the values embedded in such framing.   We have then contrasted these with the key elements of our own vision.   For example:

  • We start with the idea of social care as a solution. The dominant narrative presents it as a problem to be fixed.
  • We regard social care as a springboard, while the dominant narrative presents it overwhelmingly as a safety net.
  • We see the growing value to society of great support. The dominant narrative presents social care as a growing social and financial cost.
  • We see our fellow citizens being supported to live lives that they choose to lead, as part of a reciprocal web of community based support. The dominant narrative is of a one-way street, with regulated personal care service ‘looking after vulnerable people.’
  • We see people with gifts and potential to be nurtured. The dominant narrative sees people with needs.
  • We believe everyone is set to benefit from there being great care and support. The dominant narrative presents social care as exclusively benefiting older, disabled people and ‘vulnerable people.’   Moreover, the print media most commonly now describe people using or needing social care as ‘patients.’
  • Crucially, we believe great care and support transforms people’s lives and we want to see exciting new approaches grow and spread, through a reformed approach and greater financial investment. The dominant narrative presents social care only as in crisis and broken with more funding to maintain the status quo the only answer.
  • We root our vision in intrinsic values of equality, justice and reciprocity. The dominant narrative flip-flops between a highly paternalistic form of benevolence or, through emphasising threats, invoking extrinsic values around security and social order.

The research will now follow four stages: defining the change we want to see and the audiences we need to reach, mapping the current landscape of discourse and thinking, looking deeply at the mindset of our target audiences and working out how best to persuade them to support and be involved in pursuing our vision.

Over the coming weeks we’ll be publishing an invitation to tender to enlist expert support with carrying out the research ahead. We’ll also be working with our network to refine #socialcarefuture’s long term and intermediate goals and to identify who we need to influence to achieve them, as the crucial first step in this process. You can get involved in this work at our meetings in Birmingham on 28 November 2019 and Manchester on 4 February 2020.

A special thank you to all of our partners, whose generous support is making this project possible (we’ll update this blogpost with a list of them all later). Of course, further resources – financial, technical or other in-kind – would allow us to expand and deepen this research project. We also want to work with organisations to apply and helping us to test potential new narratives and messages. If you would like to support the work or to be involved please do get in touch.

In the meantime, please do share your thoughts and reflections on our new report.

Download the report Talking about a brighter social care future

Download an easy read summary  

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