Whose Social Care Future is it Anyway?

An Appreciative Enquiry for a brighter social care future

For the past two years #socialcarefuture has been growing into a movement of people with a shared commitment to bring about major positive change in social care.  It’s for those who want to take part in imagining, communicating and creating together a future where what we currently call social care makes a major contribution to everyone’s wellbeing and which, as a result, will enjoy high levels of public and political support.

We have been:

  • Developing a shared story of change and learning how to use it to inspire the wider public to support the future we seek
  • Underpinning this story with examples of the approaches that exemplify this future and working with others to grow and to spread them
  • Challenging and changing the present through action to close the gap between the positive rhetoric of policy and the reality on the ground

Covid-19 has been a devastating experience for many people who use social care and the workers supporting them. So many people have died in care homes and so many been separated from their loved ones despite the amazing commitment of staff. In other parts of social care the past few months have starkly revealed and emphasised what is not working with life and limb time and task models of support and bureaucratic practices. Beyond, but including social care, we have seen the unequal impact of the virus on BAME communities and on people and communities with less wealth.

At the same time we have seen what can happen when people in communities show they care about each other. We have also seen the “glimpses of the future” that we have been gathering come to the fore. This includes values driven support providers and those offering human sized and shaped approaches –  all stepping up with responsive and flexible support. It also includes those local authorities that have built on their previous positive behaviours and investments to step up during the emergency in rapid supportive communications, flexible use of resources, reductions of unhelpful processes and practices. These authorities have respectfully supported and partnered with mutual aid groups and their community and voluntary sector partners.

As we take the first tentative steps into a new future there is no shortage of people and groups talking about the future of social care – setting up commissions and investigations, taking about “building back better” etc. Some of these are encouraging – such as the material emerging from the Local Government Association following their Green Paper. We fear though, when some groups speak of “expertise” they tend to mean only that expertise held by people with specific technical knowledge or who commission or represent some forms of support provision. People who use social care sadly tend to be excluded or included in only a minor way.

The consequence of this is that the debates and ideas are very different and more narrow, with a strong risk that they will result in a more limited, less ambitious set of ideas and actions. For all the talk of change we fear the calls emerging will be for marginal adjustments to the existing ways of doing things and the solutions largely technical. This is what has happened for several decades now and we cannot be confident that even the virus will change this.

So, as part of our broader next steps plan, Social Care Future will conduct an “appreciative enquiry”, led by a panel of people who use social care and with support from their allies. It will use all forms of expertise. It will be solution and action focussed. It won’t be just a talking shop. It will ask a specific question – “what do we all need to do to make the following vision happen”?

We all want to live in the place we call home with the people and things that we love, in communities where we look out for one another, doing the things that matter to us

The enquiry is being designed at the moment but here is a glimpse of the plans:


  1. Support the detailed development of our proposed future for social care – what it will do, how it will do it and how we will make it happen
  2. Make a major contribution to covid-19 “reset” debates and plans of others, influencing them in the direction of our vision
  3. Model an approach with lived experience in the lead


  1. The enquiry will be focussed on how to progress our vision: We all want to live in the place we call home with the people and things that we love, in communities where we look out for one another, doing the things that matter to us. We appreciate and value the goals of other groups but this is the focus of our enquiry and we welcome contribution from anyone who thinks this is heading in the right direction
  2. A panel of movement members with lived experience of social care will take “evidence” at a series of themed on line sessions (live and recorded) from contributors with experience and expertise relevant to achieving the vision. The panel will be supported as required by people who can help in areas like research and analysis
  3. In additional to witnesses, members of the movement and those interested in the vision are invited to make submissions in answer to the core question of the enquiry – what do we all need to do to make the vision happen?Groups and organisations may wish to conduct their own appreciative enquiries and share their ideas
  4. A series of debates will be held focussing on key elements relevant to our vision, exploring issues and action key to making it happen. The results of these debates will be fed through to the panel and will inform “witness sessions” around key themes
  5. The series of interviews and “glimpses of the future” undertaken by Social Care Future, will be analysed and inputted into the panel
  6. The results will be shared widely to ensure “reset” debates are usefully informed and used to plan our strategy to drive change

Partners and support

We are in discussion with a range of people and organisations who have a strong interest in this work. We therefore anticipate significant elements of the work being done jointly or in alignment with others. We have had a number of offers in areas such as analysis, research review, expertise in key debate areas but welcome more!

Process and timing

  • Summer 2020 (July/August) – Set up, initial analysis, first set of debates to feed in
  • Autumn 2020 (September/October) – Panel sessions, further debates, analysis, development of proposals
  • November 2020 – Sharing of initial findings, next steps strategy development
  • Early 2021 Completion and action!


If you would like to help and be involved please get in touch with us at socialcarefuture@gmail.com


Leave a Comment

  1. […] A group of movement members with lived experience have agreed to form a core panel – people with a range of experience and ages and from across the movement. The group will be meeting and planning into the early Autumn and then the first stage of the enquiry will start running pre-Christmas. Lots of discussions with groups and organisations are going on about linking to and supporting the enquiry in a wide range of ways, hosting debates, sharing ideas, offering skills and insights. Beyond panel “hearings” there are several ways groups can be involved and make contributions. We would love to talk to you about getting your voice heard.  There is an outline of our planned  “appreciative enquiry” here. […]


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