By Anna Severwright

Reset, Recover, Restart, Refresh, Renew or maybe you want to Run away! So many R words are being used for ‘life after Co-vid’. The reality is we are probably going to be living with Co-vid for a long while. Co-vid has shone a light on many issues and challenges in our society. But also shone some rays of hope.

Recently I have been asked to speak a few times about social care after Co-vid – so here is a blog summarising some of my thoughts:

We need brave, radical reform. Obviously, we need more and fairer funding. But we must make sure we are not just funding more of the same. Where going into a care home is the last resort, but there are often no realistic alternatives. Where families and disabled people talk about ‘the battle’ with the system and people with learning disabilities are too often still in institutions.

I want to start from a place that we ALL have the right to a good, ordinary life, regardless of age, health or learning disability, as described in this co-produced vision from Social Care Future:

“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 all have gifts and potential and by being us make our communities better places to be, in our own ways. But some of us will need some form of social care to help make this vision a reality in our lives.

Co-vid has again highlighted the inequalities in our society, especially around our health. We all knew they were there, but for too long it has felt they were tolerated as the ‘status quo’. This must change. People from BAME backgrounds, living in poverty or who have a learning disability all have worse health outcomes. The causes are diverse, complicated and systemic, but social care and it’s foundation of social justice must play a role in challenging these causes and help to start to narrow the health and wellbeing gaps that have been widening.

Society needs to start to value social care and view it as an asset. Social care has been much more prominent during co-vid, unfortunately a lot of that due to the large numbers of tragic lives lost in care homes. Too often social care has been seen as a thing for others- the old or disabled, not something good for all of us in society. The language of ‘the vulnerable’ that has become common parlance during the pandemic, serves to further increase this dehumanising divide between those who need care and those who don’t, those seen as capable and useful to society and those not.  But by having a strong social care sector it produces many jobs (crucial at a time of high unemployment), allows us as people to fully contribute to society, makes communities stronger, richer places to live, reduces isolation and improves people’s wellbeing. We need to make social care something that everyone wants to invest in and attractive for their older age.

Health and social care need to work better together in a joined-up way. This doesn’t mean they have to merge into one huge organisation and lose the skills and values specific to social care. But that the organisations, and crucially people within it, should be working together around my life. They should have a shared goal, of allowing me to live the way I want to, as well as possible. The culture of ‘that’s a different team’ or a different budget needs to end as it just causes delay and frustration. The fact that I can’t ask my PA to pick up a prescription as that’s a ‘health need’ is ridiculous and if I didn’t get my medication damaging to my health and wellbeing, but that’s just one example. This needs to include a person’s whole life- education, housing, benefits…. People don’t divide their lives into sections and yet that is how the system insists on interacting with people.

A positive to come from Co-vid has been community spirit, often in the form of the springing up of mutual aid groups or neighbourly WhatsApp groups. Communities showed that they were capable and effective in mounting a quick response. This reminds us that strong communities are vital to our wellbeing, often providing informal services, friendship or support that prevent or delay the need for more formal social care. However, the relationships between these more sporadic and flexible approaches and large organisations is often tricky, due to differing culture and language. It is essential that local authorities and other organisations encourage and support communities to thrive, but not try to control or fix them.

Another essential area for me is that people should have genuine choice and control over their lives, including their care and support. Family carers, often at breaking point, feel they have no option but to send their loved one into a care home as no viable alternative is offered. Younger adults, including myself, have limited care hours, so sometimes have to choose between having a shower or going to the supermarket. We can do better. In some areas, there are pockets of innovation and change, but too often these can’t fit the wider system so don’t survive or get adopted elsewhere. Things like direct payments, that were meant to offer genuine choice and freedom, get swallowed up into complex systems and restricted, making them not fit for purpose. The system needs to start working with us as partners, building positive relationships, built on trust and allowing flexibility, not on the current power model of scrutiny, threats and inflexible rules.

Ultimately for genuine reform to be successful, communities and citizens must be involved in the shaping and delivering of it. For too long power has been top down and hierarchical, but social care is about life and relationships and for these to flourish there needs to be a shift. Co-vid has massively changed the way we do things and we must grasp this opportunity to be big and bold in our aspirations for social care and for the lives we all want to live.

Alex Fox had a Social Care Future Conversation with members of Sunderland People First – Matthew Moon, Sharon Bell, Gavin Barr, Paul James, Lauren Baynes, Toni Ann Wood and Jodie Williams

The team described what Sunderland People First does – its advocacy, campaigning and training work. After the virus hit the members faced personal impacts and also the group had to change how they work. There have been real challenges for people, especially around seeing friends and families and getting out and about. Some work and plans have had to be put on hold. At the same time the group have risen to the challenge. They support each other via daily zoom calls and have become familiar with lots of communication tools and aids many were unfamiliar with before. This has allowed much of their work to continue. People gave examples like their continued involvement in the national “Right to Home” movement.

People had thoughts about how managing the challenges of the pandemic could be made easier – in particular strong views about communication of information. Looking forward members of the group were determined that people with learning disabilities and autism should be much more powerfully involved in decision making about things vital to their lives – including government policy

Music choices

By Neil Crowther

Covid19 led to a pause in our work to develop a new narrative to help win support for the #socialcarefuture we’re seeking, but the pandemic has created a new urgency to get this work done:

  • Social care has certainly been in the headlines, but not for good reasons.  If the public didn’t have an appreciation for what social care was before the pandemic, they could be forgiven for thinking it is wholly about older people living – or dying – in care homes and little more. 
  • The public may have ‘clapped for carers’ but it would be unwise to imagine their thoughts and feelings about social care are in a better place than before the pandemic. 
  • The ‘social care crisis’ language we warned of before the pandemic has now been taken over by the ‘coronavirus social care crisis’, yet the solutions seem more elusive than ever in the public story, which risks deepening despondency about the future.
  • Ministers talk of ‘people in social care’ framing it as place or destination, not as a vehicle for a better life
  • Paternalistic language concerning ‘the elderly and vulnerable’ has been in the ascendance during lockdown

While there are some positive signs, such as the close proximity of the vision and language of the Local Government Association to ours, if we want to shift the narrative and thinking towards the left hand side of the column below, we’ve got work to do.

So what are we doing next?

Having laid the groundwork in building an understanding of how the media, sector campaigners, politicians and Twitter users talk about social care, we’re now going to turn our attention in depth to understanding how the public thinks, feels and talks about care and support.

We’re delighted to now be working with strategic communications experts Equally Ours, public audience research experts Survation and a Working Group representing the #socialcarefuture network including Wendy Mitchell, Jordan Smith, Clenton Farquharson, Bryony Shannon, Philly Hare, Karyn Kirkpatrick, Sian Lockwood and Wendy Lowder to deliver the next stage of this work.

Using a range of qualitative methodologies we’re going to start by taking a deep dive into how public audiences talk, think and feel about care and support, including their response to our existing vision.    This evidence will help us to consider and to develop a number of frames and messages to test with members of the public during the next stage of research, where we’ll explore how best to communicate our vision and approach, using both quantitative and qualitative methods. We’ll also be surveying local councillors to see how different framing and messages land with them. This evidence will in turn form the basis of advice and guidance that we’re hoping to have available in the autumn on how to communicate our vision and ideas effectively.  

In keeping with the approach we’ve adopted throughout this work, as well as our working group, we’ll be creating opportunities to share emerging findings with our wider network and to invite comments and ideas about the best way forwards.

If you have any questions or comments, do get in touch either using the comments facility below or email:

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

John and Lawraine from Mixit talk to Julie Stansfield as part of the Social Care Future series. They describe the Mixit journey, changing hearts and minds through powerful, entertaining and political  performances. They share how the Mixit team have stepped up by continuing on-line rehearsals, being a lifeline to people and how they hope to embed inclusion as part of the social care reset. Something inside so strong! You ain’t seen nothing yet! If you want to see Mixit in action see links below and to support them. Why don’t you invite them to inspire and liven up your on-line sessions. Contact them at

Mixit’s Facebook

Absolutely Everybody Video