By Neil Crowther

The vision and narrative developed by #socialcarefuture, which we published in April, was developed with people that draw on social care to live their lives and it was tested and refined through consultation with the general public.  It shifts public thinking about social care towards the way we want people to experience social care, and through doing so it commands more support from the public to invest in and transform social care.  

It offers a ‘North Star’ for social care and the beginnings of a route map to get there.  That’s vitally important because, as Thomas Coombes has said ““If we do not make the case for the world we want to see, who will?”

But it doesn’t say what’s wrong with social care today.  And that’s a weakness for two reasons.  First of all, as I have found, it can make it seem detached from people’s everyday lived reality and as a result, though people may be attracted to it, it can seem implausible or too far away from the immediate challenges people face.  Second, because – to flip Thomas’s point – if we do not define the current problems in the way we want and need them to be understood, who will?’  Framing the problem is a really important element of shifting thinking, because otherwise people default to their own assumptions or to what others are telling them and in turn the solutions we propose to them don’t make sense.  For example, in its work for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on changing public thinking about poverty, the Frameworks Institute found that people saw poverty only as the absence of basic material things, like food, shelter, clothing and warmth. All other things are understood as ‘wants’ or luxuries.  They conclude that this way of thinking “can help to garner support for a limited form of welfare support that meets basic needs, and action to address the costs of housing. However, it undermines support for a more robust welfare state and leads the public to focus on tightening up the benefits system.”  Or as As Julia Unwin has said ‘If you talk about housing in terms of desperation and  need, then you can’t be surprised if it becomes an emergency service.’  Similarly, if we allow the ‘crisis’ in social care to be about ‘failing to look after the most vulnerable’, whether or not people have to sell their homes to pay for care or about the threat of ‘provider collapse’, we will lose our grip in shaping the human-sized and shaped solutions we want to see.

So how can we fill that gap?

Firstly, by sticking to the headline vision ‘we all want to live in the place we call home, with the people and things we live, in communities where we look out for another, doing what matters to us.’  Good framing practice consistently advises us to lead with ‘shared values’ and with an articulation of what it is we want to achieve, not with the problem.  If we don’t do this we can cue up unsupportive values, especially paternalism, confirm people’s sense that this is about ‘other people’ and not relevant to them, and because few people have any experience or understanding of social care, fail to raise their expectations of what could be.  The function of this vision is not to depict social care as is, but to reveal the distance we have yet to travel, while setting the coordinates to get there.

Once we’ve done this, we can then frame the problem or problems in a way that reinforces this vision of what should and could be and points people back towards our vision and the solutions we advocate.  This is something the recent Whose social care is it anyway? Inquiry report begins to do, with its sub-heading ‘from permanent lockdown to an equal life’

The use of ‘permanent lockdown’ works at a number of levels.  It has universal resonance, and brings to life our headline vision, because these are the things that all of us, to different degrees, have experience the loss of: of being with the people and things we love, or feeling connected, or doing the things that matter to us and which make us who we are.  Hence, the problem with social care is that it fails to support people to live the life they want to lead – it restricts and restrains.  But it also crucially frames the problem as external – as having been imposed on people and hence something that can be resolved, through investing in and organising social care differently, which in turn will free people.  It’s a framing that can work across a range of specific issues, whether the inadequacy of packages of care or the impact of care charges (as many of the people speaking in this excellent File on 4 programme on care charges do so eloquently), the imposition by councils of strict rules over how we can use direct payments, or the failure of successive government’s to invest in building a sustainable future for social care for example. Note that it is also always important to bring into clear view the ‘heroes and villains’ of the story. That is, be as clear as possible about who is responsible for creating and solving the problems.   

Of course, we should never only talk about problems. By saying ‘from permanent lockdown to an equal life’ we provide the sense of release and the possibility of the better future towards which we want to move. Our vision, and the steps advocated by the Whose social care is it anyway? Inquirers are hence our ‘roadmap to freedom’. It’s crucial to marry an articulation of problems with a believable plan for change, without which fatalism can set in.  The inquiry group will be doing that over the coming months, and as they do, thinking about how to frame the solutions they advocate will be crucial too.

Ultimately our research and guidance has produced a framework for communicating differently – and for those that share our values and goals – more effectively to win public support, not a script. It is there to guide how you communicate and to help people to think differently about social care, not to dictate or police it. By following some basic rules, you genuinely can open up new possibilities, challenge assumptions and reshape expectations.

Nevetheless, the #socialcarefuture we advocate is one in which everyone has a stake and role, and so it only follows that everyone must have a voice and be heard. Try to follow the rules, but remember that the best communication is always a conversation where we respectfully listen, not a who can shout their message the loudest.

Today is a really exciting day, as the ‘Whose Social Care is it Anyway?’ Inquiry group issue our first findings.

The Whose Social Care Is It? Inquirers talk about the 5 key changes

The powerful thing about this inquiry is that is has been led by us, people who draw on social care to lead our lives or who support loved ones to do so. We got tired of being left out of the discussions about reform or being the ‘tick box service-user’ so we took matters into our own hands and started the Whose Social Care is it Anyway? Inquiry.

But we knew we didn’t know everything so we asked people whether they currently experience our vision (below) in their lives and their ideas for change.

We heard from over 500 people (thank you!) and from what people told us and our own experiences we have identified 5 key changes to bring our vision about.

They are: 

1.         Communities where everyone belongs

2.         Living in the place we call home

3.         Leading the lives we want to live

4.         More resources, better used

5.         Sharing power as equals

As we move into the next stage of the inquiry over the coming months, we will be looking into these 5 key changes in more detail and starting to craft the solutions that can make our vision a reality. Please share the report and look at the asks to see what you can do in your live or work to start making these changes happen.

Plain text version

If you would like to be part of helping to bring about our vision and the 5 key changes you can sign up here to be kept up to date with the work of the movement and opportunities to get involved:

We are united in our view that the Government’s proposals for the future of social care – promised again in the Queen’s Speech for later this year – must be brought forward urgently along with a clear timeline for action.

As senior members of organisations representing people who draw on, work in, commission, provide and regulate adult social care and support, we are united in our view that the Government’s proposals for the future of social care – promised again in the Queen’s Speech for later this year – must be brought forward urgently along with a clear timeline for action.

This was an important opportunity for the Government to make good on its promise to ‘fix social care’ and move the reform debate further forward, building on the many lessons that have been learned during the course of the pandemic.

One of those lessons is the clear and important role social care plays in supporting people to live the lives they want to lead. As Social Care Future put it:

Every further delay to social care reform is a further setback to the achievement of this vision and a further curtailment of people’s ability to lead their best life. We must do better and be bold in redesigning the function, form and funding of social care for all those who draw on social care and its dedicated care workforce.

In the weeks ahead, and as we gear up to this year’s Spending Review, social care funding and reform should be at the heart of the Government’s thinking on how best to emerge from the challenging times we have all faced over the last year with renewed optimism and hope. This is an agenda that is about maximising every person’s potential, strengthening our communities and bolstering our economies. Funding is needed for three important priorities:

  1. To stabilise social care for the short-term and prevent the escalation of the many pressures social care has faced before and during the pandemic, which will also help alleviate some of the pressures facing the NHS.
  1. To kick start the shift we need to make toward the vision we all share by supporting a greater focus on preventative activity, personalisation, support for the care workforce, action on inequalities, investment in innovation and technology, and transformation and improvement support to councils and providers.
  1. To secure the long-term future of social care. Such funding would not be used to resource the pre-Covid status quo and would instead be used to support models of care that are more preventative and person-centred.

We are all committed to playing our part in realising a brighter future for social care. As we have seen over the last year, there is great work happening in local areas across micro-enterprises, the wide range of communities’ different assets, mutual aid and innovative housing arrangements, to name a few examples.

We will continue to nurture these solutions in the move toward a broader offer of support. By working with Government on the above priorities we will be better able to spread this best practice and mainstream the many different models of care and support that enable people to live a fulfilling life and connect to the people and things that matter most to them.

Anna Severwright, Convener, #socialcarefuture

Cllr James Jamieson, Chairman, Local Government Association

Oonagh Smyth, Skills for Care

Clenton Farquharson MBE, Think Local Act Personal (TLAP)

Kathryn Smith, Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE)

Kathy Roberts, Care Provider Alliance

Stephen Chandler, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS)

By Martin Walker, Think Local, Act Personal

Music has played an important part in my life – and I’m sure I’m no different to many. Lots of us have a ‘soundtrack’ that maps out our lives. I guess I’m a man of eclectic tastes – Classic FM is always on in the car, I love getting lost in David Gilmour’s soulful guitar playing – and a bit of Boney M with friends always gets us shuffling our feet.

Words from songs say what I want to say better than I can – ‘rip it up and start again!’ for the first version of this blog, for example.

Maybe it’s too early to be positive, but it feels like spring is signalling a new beginning for us here in England. Places are opening up, life as we knew it is starting again.

For me, it’s been a hopeful year in which we at TLAP have been able to remind government policy makers about the importance of supporting  people to live independent lives.

We’ve united people and their supporters to talk about direct payments and how they could work better – whether they are working or not working.

We’ve convened councils, the LGA and ADASS to work on how to fix difficult systems and processes of our own making – watch this space on reducing bureaucracy!

So, of course Ian Dury and the Blockheads spring to mind when I reflect on all these reasons I’m feeling cheerful this spring.

Innovative care provision springing into action

As colleagues ask me about the difficulties community providers of day opportunities have with restarting their services, my instinct is to always ask the inspiring local people I’ve worked with in the past. For example, people like Steph Birkinshaw and her Fun Filled Days ranging from making crepes for brunch and toasting marshmallows over a firepit (very safely) to visits from ‘reiki sue’ to give lessons on skin care and adapted dance sessions from a local dance troop, all based at Edlington Hilltop Centre Their vibrant person-centred and led activities are restarting.  Like many providers, technology played a part in staying connected this last year. Unlike some providers they managed their insurance issues successfully.

Unthinkable outcomes now a reality

The cup that is always half full that is Katie Clarke letting her friends on social media know that Team Clarke, a group of Personal Assistants will be getting her daughter Nadia into that perfect bluebell lined glade on a hillside in Halifax one way or another – sounds like a wellbeing outcome to me. Unthinkable a few months ago when we heard about the lengths Katie and Nadia needed to go to with cleaning and safe use of PPE to stay safe whilst shielding.

Personal Assistants – critical to mum’s happiness

My mum’s personal assistant Jayne will be taking her to the local garden centre today on her 87th birthday. She was proud as punch about walking to the hairdressers last week – it’s 400 yards down the road, but that’s a victory for her and us after months of perpetual challenge to maintain her mood. Jayne ‘s daily visits and my chats, which usually involves IT support, are critical to her wellbeing.

What’s next for self-directed support this spring?

Feels like we should be doing something positive and moving forwards doesn’t it? I’ll be doing that this year with TLAP’s work around self-directed support.

Join me at Socialcarefuture on 27th May taking a look between the covers at Direct Payments: working or not working and how the voice of recipients could be strengthened.

You can also hear how some councils have already begun a journey to address those system and process issues and get back to the roots of self-directed support.

Why not join us this spring as we head towards a brighter future – book now here. What’s the soundtrack that maps your life right now? 

This vision has been developed by people that draw on or work in social care and through extensive public audience research.  It changes how people think about social care and builds public support for and optimism about investment and reform.

Our social care future

We all want a good life

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

Caring about each other

If we or someone we care about has a disability or health condition during our life, we might need some support to do these things. That’s the role of social care.

Drawing on support to live our lives in the way we want to

When organised well, social care helps to weave the web of relationships and support in our local communities that we can draw on to live our lives in the way that we want to, with meaning, purpose and connection, whatever our age or stage of life.

We know how to be better

There are already places that are thinking about and organising social care differently to achieve this. For example, by supporting facilitators who bring family, friends and neighbours together to support someone to do what matters to them, strengthening the relationships of everyone involved. Personal assistants, employed by people to provide practical support so someone can lead their life their way. And organisations that connect people with opportunities to use their skills and talents, which improves their wellbeing and benefits the local community.

Everywhere and for everyone

We believe that this can and should be happening everywhere and for everyone.

More resources, better invested

For that to happen, the government must make good social care a priority and begin investing more in it. And more local councils need urgently to start working alongside and supporting local people and organisations to bring these ideas to life by organising and funding social care differently.