For the past two years #socialcarefuture has been a growing movement of people with a shared commitment to bring about major positive change in what is currently called “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.

Those coming together via this growing movement include people with lived experience, families, professionals, managers, support providers, user-led organisations, politicians, academics, commissioners, community groups and others.

We have worked together in variety of ways to develop and pursue our shared vision:

  • Co-authoring a shared story of change and learn 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 at all levels to close the gap between the positive rhetoric of policy and the reality on the ground

From a Vision to a Better Future

Building our plans for action with lived experience at the centre – Whose social care future is it anyway?

Lots of organisations and groups are holding reviews and doing planning about the future of social care. Sadly, these can effectively exclude people who use social care and often bring together only technical experts and those responsible for current forms of service and practice rather those keen to help build the future we want. Anna Severwright has blogged here about some of the reasons that changing this is vital. For this reason we are going to arrange our own positive enquiry to help us plan how to make our vision a reality and influence others.

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.

Talking about a brighter social care future

Building on our previous work on “reframing” and with support from members we have brought together a diverse group from across the movement to work on the next stage. We are working with Equally Ours and Survation and will soon do research on how the public think about social care and which messages, how presented, can build support for our vision. We aim to get the first material out this autumn. See more here.

Glimpses of the Future: A Festival for Change

This will be an on-line festival starting in early November. It will offer an opportunity to:

  • Share the early findings from Whose Social Care is It Anyway? and Talking About a Brighter Social Care Future
  • Put on a series of sessions organised around our three core elements: vision, glimpses of the future, solution led challenge. These will share significant action members are taking, and debate key issues. People can link to opportunities for involvement in next steps or more detailed plans and action for change
  • Bring movement members and others together to raise spirits, support each other, inspire inform and entertain

Want to get involved in this action? Get in touch via socialcarefuture@gmail.com

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: socialcarefuture@gmail.com