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How to build public support to transform social care

A practical guide for communicating about social care

Neil Crowther and Kathryn Quinton

Publishing information

Published by In Control for #socialcarefuture, April 2021
In Control Partnerships, PO Box 17649, Solihull, B90 9LA http://www.in-control.org.uk / Charity registration number 1130761
This is an open-source publication. We would be grateful if those wishing to reproduce any part of it would reference the publication and include links to it.
Illustration: Belinda Evans / Design: Henry Iles

Contents
Introduction
A new way to talk about the future of social care: our tested narrative in full
Why we need to change the story of social care
Mapping the gaps
The new narrative explained

  1. Focus on results and lead with shared values
  2. Explain the role of social care and how it works when organised well
  3. Offer a believable plan for change
  4. Be clear who is responsible and what they need to do
    Tips for talking about social care
    Further reading
    Acknowledgments

INTRODUCTION

This guide provides an evidence-based framework for communicating about social care in a way that builds public understanding of and support for change. It is not a ‘script’ but the language used here has been developed and tested extensively with public audiences.

A summary of the background research is available in the report, ‘How to build public support to transform social care – Summary of our public audience research.’

Social Care Future is a growing movement, with a shared vision of a radically different future for what we today call ‘social care’ – a future where social care exists to support everyone to draw on formal and informal support and relationships to live the lives they want to lead, with meaning, purpose and connection with their community.

Underpinning how social care is presently organised and funded, a significant obstacle to achieving this vision is the way social care is talked and thought about, and the feelings that it generates among the public at large. We can only hope to change social care by changing this narrative.

By reframing the way we talk about social care, it’s possible to build stronger public support for investment and reform. Drawing on best practice in values-based framing, we wanted to see how different framing could change how people think and feel about social care. Our research has demonstrated that by reframing the way we talk about social care, it’s possible to build stronger public support for investment and reform. Moreover, it has shown that shifting mindsets towards the vision and approach advocated by Social Care Future provides a successful route for doing so.

A NEW WAY TO TALK ABOUT THE FUTURE OF SOCIAL CARE

Here is a version of the tested narrative in full, using the ‘weave the web’ metaphor to explain the role of social care in people’s lives (see later for other tested metaphors). The research showed that this narrative shifted public mindsets concerning social care in line with the vision and values we wished to communicate, and increased public support for transforming it through investment and reform.

“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.

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.

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.

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 well.being and benefits the local community.

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

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.”

Why we need to change the story of social care

The way that we currently communicate about social care – with its narrow conception of what social care is and does, and focus on an unsustainable system in crisis – militates against achieving the fundamental changes we want to see. Far from motivating people to act, crisis talk makes the problem seem too big to solve, leading to fatalism and inaction. That’s not to say we shouldn’t focus on the current serious problems with social care in our messaging – it’s very important that we do – but we need to ‘frame’ the facts and problems in a way that maximises the chance that they are heard and acted on. And that’s where values-based framing comes in. Values-based framing is an evidence-based approach to communicating for long-term social change that connects social issues to people on a deeper level to increase their support for progressive change.

Mapping the gaps

In November 2019, #socialcarefuture published ‘Talking about a brighter Social Care Future’, which described the approach and best practice in values-based framing that we have been following, and brought together research into the messaging of campaigners, a look at how print media talked about social care and existing evidence on public thinking about social care. We subsequently commissioned research during the 2019 General Election into how politicians and political parties talked about social care, and into how social care was discussed on Twitter.
(Crowther, N (2019) Talking about a brighter social care future In Control 2 Dayrell, C & Semino, E (2020) Social care in UK public discourse The ESRC Centre for Corpus
Approaches to Social Science (CASS), Lancaster University, UK)

This research allowed us to map the gaps between our vision of the future and the dominant discourse about social care that shapes how many people think and feel about it. During the Covid-19 pandemic we have only noticed these gaps widen and solidify, particularly as a result of the tragic situation facing many people who live, or lived in, residential care homes, and through relentless talk of ‘the vulnerable’. Such talk invokes highly paternalistic stereotypes, making it harder to build the case for people to have greater choice and control over their support.

In summary, the current public story characterises social care as caring for rather than about people and as being kept alive rather than living a life of meaning, purpose and connection.

Since mapping these gaps, our research has focused on how to bring the public closer to our story. That is, how to communicate about social care in a way that builds understanding and support for change among the public. We have worked with strategic communications experts Equally Ours and public opinion researchers Survation to conduct qualitiative and quantitative research with the public to test and refine a new narrative.

THE NEW NARRATIVE EXPLAINED

This section explains the new narrative in detail. Importantly, we tested more than one version of the narrative, all of which demonstrated the positive results outlined in the research, hence different versions and combinations can be used.

  1. Focus on results and lead with shared values

‘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’

As the communications expert Anat Shenker-Osorio advises, ‘people sell the brownie, not the recipe.’ This opening, values-based, hopeful and people-focused statement focuses on life outcomes and in doing so makes the overarching frame about living a good life of our choosing, with meaning, purpose and connection. It positions social care as something that reaffirms our identity, will and preferences – protecting, rather than threatening, the things that matter to us and anchor us in the world.

By starting with life outcomes, it actively positions social care as a vehicle to achieving these ends, rather than as an end in itself, and as happening in the place the person calls home. In this vision people do not ‘go into’, ‘enter’ or ‘access’ social care. Crucially, it avoids any references to a ‘service’, ‘system’ or ‘sector’.

The vision strengthens people’s values of security and belonging, freedom and control, and interdependence and community. It avoids any appeal to paternalistic benevolence and recognises people who draw on social care being both givers and receivers of support to and from their community. It is about people caring about and supporting one another, rather than invoking ideas of ‘vulnerable people’ being ‘cared for’. The words ‘support’ and ‘supporting’ tested particularly well in the focus groups to describe the function of social care.

Particularly important is its avoidance of ‘othering.’ The headline vision appeals to universal human experience and desires, not mentioning any particular social group or area of ‘need.’ In doing so it speaks to ‘a larger us’, avoiding generating ideas of ‘them and us’, while indirectly invoking equality.

  1. Explain the role of social care and how it works when organised well

The next section of the narrative introduces an explanation, employing metaphors to build understanding of the role of social care that we advocate.

It begins by explaining why we may require support:

‘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.’

This reinforces the message that social care is about support with living a life that people commonly value (as outlined in the headline vision above). Importantly, it does not talk about ‘older’ or ‘disabled people’ as fixed groups, instead talking about disability or a health condition as something we all might experience during our lives. It also opens out the frame to include those who share their lives with people who require support connected to a health condition or disability. This is designed to further reinforce the universal relevance of social care.

The narrative continues by explaining how our vision and approach works in practice. Specifically:

that when organised well, social care is a made up of a range of formal and informal support and relationships that need to be drawn together around what matters to people

that people are in control of their support and their lives and that social care is a means to the end of leading a life one has reason to value.

The inclusion of the phrase ‘when organised well’ is important because it makes it clear that social care can be and is sometimes organised differently, rather than fixed and difficult to change, opening up the real possibility for change.

Explanatory metaphors

To aid understanding of how social care works in practice, we have developed a range of metaphors. The first three – weaving the web, nurturing the ecosystem, and the glue that binds – work well to build understanding of and support for the idea of social care as a range of formal and informal support and relationships drawn together to support people to live their lives as they wish.

Weaving the web

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, whatever our age or stage of life.

Nurturing the ecosystem

When organised well, social care helps nurture an ecosystem of relationships and support in our local communities that we can draw on to live our lives in the way that we want to, whatever our age or stage of life.

The glue that binds

When organised well, social care acts as the glue that binds together relationships and support in our local communities that we can draw on to live our lives in the way that we want to, whatever our age or stage of life.

We also tested metaphors of ‘vehicle’ and ‘tool’ to convey the idea of social care as a means to other ends, and to reinforce the importance of people being in control of their support and their lives.

Vehicle

When organised well, social care provides us with the vehicle that allow us to do what matters to us, whatever our age or stage of life.

Tools

When organised well, social care provides us with the tools that allow us to do what matters to us, whatever our age or stage of life.

During the research, unlike the ‘web’, ‘ecosystem’ and ‘glue’ metaphors, ‘vehicle’ and ‘tool’ did not work as well as part of a standalone message as. However, when used as part of the wider narrative we saw a similar overall shift in understanding and support, suggesting that they can prove helpful when employed in that broader context.  Since conducting the research we have also tweaked the ‘web’, ‘ecosystem’ and ‘glue’ metaphor statements to add the phrasing ‘that we can draw on’ to reinforce the idea of social care as a means to other ends in line with the person’s own goals.

During the qualitative and quantitative phases of the research we used both ‘to do what matters to us’ or ‘to live our lives in the way that we want to’, both of which reinforce the importance of choice and control, and of power and agency residing with the person drawing on support.

During the qualitative phase of the research a number of participants expressed strong support for the addition of ‘with meaning, purpose and connection’. This phrase might be helpful if using any of the explanatory metaphors independent of the headline vision, eg:

‘When organised well, social care helps weave the web of relationships and support that we can draw on to live the lives we want to lead, with meaning, purpose and connection.’ The inclusion of ‘whatever our age or stage in life’ conveys that our empowering vision of social care is relevant to everyone.

  1. Offer a believable plan for change

The research showed that to believe that the vision and approach is credible and achievable, people need to see real-life examples of how it works in practice. We used a range of examples in the qualitative and quantitative research. The three used in the quantitative research were Community Circles, Personal Assistance and Local Area Coordination.
Each amplified the ideas of living our lives as we want to and on drawing on a range of support and relationships:

‘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 well-being and benefits the local community.’

Alternatively, rather than describe different approaches, you might use specific examples of such approaches in action and the change they have brought about. It is particularly valuable to place the voice of those people who draw on social care centre stage in such examples, with people describing the role that these approaches have played in being able to live their lives and to pursue their goals.

  1. Be clear who is responsible and what they need to do

The final section of the new narrative begins with an assertion that our vision and approach, and the examples of good practice that exemplify it, can and should be available equitably and be the norm rather than the exception. This sentence also helps frame the injustice of the current situation.

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

It then goes on to say what will need to happen to achieve this, naming who is responsible and their roles and responsibilities, to address an earlier concern that ‘community-led’ approaches could amount to ‘government disowned’ responsibilities:

‘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.’

Or

‘The government must make good social care a priority and begin investing more in it. And more local councils need to think differently about how they organise and fund social care, learning from and investing in these new and more effective ways of doing things now.’

These statements have three components: they say that central government must prioritise social care and begin investing more in it. This acknowledges that more money is required to implement this vision, that it will take time to bring about, but that we cannot afford to delay getting on with it. That is to say, it conveys urgency, but attaches this to starting to build something new, rather than shoring up the existing status quo.

They then implicate the agency of local councils to strike a different relationship with their local communities and to redirect their resources towards this vision and approach. In other words, this vision is contingent on more resources being made available by central government, but not on that alone.

Finally, the first version points to the need to work alongside local people and organisations, while the second emphasises the need to redirect investment towards new models and approaches. Both versions achieved similar results in the research.

TIPS FOR TALKING ABOUT SOCIAL CARE

The following tips are based on evidence-based strategic communications good practice and the research insights.
When constructing your message:

Lead with a values-based statement to show why social care matters (the tested headline statement is a good example of this)

State the current problem(s) with social care – including who or what is responsible for it – that runs counter to the shared pro-social values in the opening statement. This is where you deploy facts and statistics

Show what good social care looks like, using the tested metaphors to explain the role of social care in people’s lives

Show how it’s possible to organise social care differently by providing concrete and achievable examples and solutions. This includes stating who’s responsible for implementing the change.

TIPS FOR TALKING ABOUT SOCIAL CARE

Do

Tell our new story about what social care is and does

Avoid

Talking about what’s wrong with the current story, as this reinforces it in people’s minds

Do

Lead with shared values (combining security and belonging, freedom and control, community and interdependence)

Avoid

Leading with the problem. And don’t talk about people that have cause to draw on social care as a growing problem.

Do

Talk about caring about people and upporting one another to live with meaning, purpose and connection

Avoid

Talking about ‘caring for people’, ‘receiving care’ and ‘being looked after’as this diminishes the value of people. And avoid phrases like ‘help with washing, eating and dressing’

Do

Talk about people living their lives, as this is what social care is about and why we have reason to value it

Avoid

Talking about a sector or industry.

Do

Talk about people who draw on care and support to position social as means to other ends and to reaffirm the primary importance of people having agency and control

Avoid

Saying people who ‘are in’ social care, who ‘access’ social care, ‘our residents’, ‘our clients’ as this frames social care as a place, destination or end in itself and diminishes the importance of people being in control

Do

Talk about ‘being at home’, ‘where the person lives’

Avoid

Saying ‘placement’, ‘setting’

Do

Say ‘we all’, ‘our’ and ‘everyone’ to build the sense of social care’s relevance to us all, not just particular groups of people

Avoid

Saying ‘the elderly’, ‘patients’ and ‘the vulnerable’ as this reinforces feelings of ‘them and us’ and diminishes the status of those that draw on social care

Do

Use the tested metaphors to explain the role of social care in people’s lives

Avoid

Using unhelpful metaphors – like ‘demographic time-bomb and ‘creaking social care system’ – which reinforce the sense of crisis and undermine the possibility of change

Do

Be clear that social care can be transformed for the better – offering concrete examples and a believable plan

Avoid

Focusing on social care as a broken system in crisis, as this leads to fatalism and inaction. And avoid talking
about social care like it’s a fixed entity that can’t be changed.

Do

Name the range of responsible agents and be clear about their roles, responsibilities and relationships. Specifically, be clear that achieving our vision requires both a greater dedication and use of public resources, including unlocking the already abundant resources in our communities

Avoid

Only talking about central government responsibility as this implies that a greater commitment of national resources towards social care is sufficient on its own to realise our vison, given these resources could continue to shore up failing models

Do

Talk about ‘investing in social care’

Avoid

Talking about ‘funding social care’

ENDNOTES

Further reading

How to build public support to transform social care – summary of our public audience research

How to build public support to transform social care – full research report by Survation

Talking about a brighter social care future – how social care is talked and thought about today

Talking about a brighter social care future – easyread report

Acknowledgments

Thank you to Alice Jennings and Equally Ours for their invaluable partnership in delivering this project, to Jane Carn, Madhur Mehra and Harry Mason at Survation for their research into public thinking, to our Working Group (Wendy Mitchell, Philly Hare, Clenton Farquharson, Sian Lockwood, Karyn Kirkpatrick, Bryony Shannon, Wendy Lowder and Jordan Smith) for their support, expertise and wise counsel, to all who have come together via #socialcarefuture gatherings on and offline to co-create this narrative, to Dr Pen Mendonca for helping us to visualise our vision and approach, to Henry Iles and Alicia Wood for their design work on this and previous reports and to those who have contributed to the costs of carrying out this work, including Keyring, Nesta, Power to Change, Dimensions, Macintyre, Seeability, Macmillan Cancer Support, Choice Support, Alzheimer’s Society, Certitude, United Response, Together Trust, Options, Think Local Act Personal, In Control, Local Government Association, Voluntary Organisations Disability Group and Camphill Village Trust.

In memory of our friend, colleague and storyteller, John Popham

@socfuture #socialcarefuture #oursocialcare http://www.socialcarefuture.blog

Published by In Control Partnerships, PO Box 17649, Solihull, B90 9LA
http://www.in-control.org.uk / Charity registration number 1130761

HOW TO BUILD PUBLIC SUPPORT TO TRANSFORM SOCIAL CARE

Summary of our public audience research

Publishing information

Published by In Control for #socialcarefuture, April 2021

In Control Partnerships, PO Box 17649, Solihull, B90 9LA http://www.in-control.org.uk / Charity registration number 1130761

This is an open-source publication. We would be grateful if those wishing to reproduce any part of it would reference the publication and include links to it.

Illustration: Belinda Evans / Design: Henry Iles

Contents
Introduction
The challenge
The framing challenge
Our story
The current public story
Methodology
What we’ve learned
Before people saw our new narrative
Invoking shared values
Using explanatory metaphors
The tested metaphors
A believable plan for change
The tested narrative in full
Our #socialcarefuture
The impact of our new narrative
In conclusion
Further reading
Acknowledgment

INTRODUCTION

This research summary provides an overview of research led by #SocialCareFuture in partnership with Equally Ours and conducted by Survation.

The research explored how the English general public talks, thinks, and feels about social care and how, through a reframed narrative, we can help build public support to transform social care. This research lies behind guidance published by #SocialCareFuture, ‘How to build public support to transform social care – a practical guide for communicating about social care’.

As well as the way that social care is presently organised and funded, a significant
obstacle to achieving our vision is the way social care is talked about, thought about, and the feelings that it generates among the public at large. We can only hope to move towards our vision by changing this narrative.

Drawing on best practice in values-based framing, we wanted to explore how different framing could change people’s response. The research that we have conducted with strategic communications experts Equally Ours and public opinion researchers Survation has demonstrated that by reframing the way we talk about social care it is possible to build stronger public support for investment and reform. Moreover, it shows that shifting mindsets towards the vision and approach advocated by #SocialCareFuture provides a successful route for doing so.

We have found that by reframing the way we talk about social care it is possible to build stronger public support for investment and reform.

This report summarises what we have learned. Survation’s full research report for #SocialCareFuture, which has informed this work, can be found here

In November 2019, #SocialCareFuture published ‘Talking about a brighter Social Care Future, which described the approach and best practice in values-based framing that we have been following, and brought together our research into the messaging of campaigners, the way print media talked about social care and existing evidence on public thinking about social care. We subsequently commissioned research during the 2019 General Election into how politicians and political parties talked about social care, and into how social care was discussed on Twitter.

That research allowed us to map the gaps between our own vision of the future and the dominant discourse about social care that shapes how many people think and feel about it. During the Covid-19 pandemic we have only noticed these gaps widen and solidify, particularly as a result of the tragic situation facing many people who live, or lived in, residential care homes, and through relentless talk of ‘the vulnerable’, invoking highly paternalistic stereotypes which make it harder to build the case for people to have greater choice and control over their support.

In summary, the current public story characterises social care as caring for rather than about people and as being kept alive rather than living a life of meaning, purpose and connection.
Since mapping these gaps, our research has focused on how to bring the public closer to understanding and supporting our story.

Working with Equally Ours and Survation, we developed and tested ways of talking about our vision and approach that could be shown to be capable of shifting attitudes and building understanding and support, adapting and refining this new narrative throughout the research process.

This included testing a range of metaphors to explain the role of social care in people’s lives, and exploring the effect of invoking different values (security and belonging, freedom and control and community and interdependence) through the narrative.

The research focused on the ‘conflicted’ public – that is, the roughly 40% of the public who tend to have conflicted views on a range of social issues and are open to persuasion if we communicate in the right way.
The opinions of this group are of particular interest to political parties and indeed our research included focus groups in so-called ‘Red Wall’ former Labour areas of the north west of England as well as in the south and south east of England. As well as exploring current attitudes to and understanding of social care, the research tested different ways to communicate our vision and approach and the action needed to make it a reality, including who we believe is responsible for making it happen.

The research took place between July and December 2020 and included: An online co-creation forum, involving 25 participants in a week-long deliberative exercise to explore understanding of and underlying assumptions about social care – and the language used and values expressed when talking about it – and to begin exploring potential new ideas and messages, Four two-hour online focus groups, comprising people from the
south, south east and north west of England, to explore and refine our emerging narrative, a national (England) online survey with 3023 members of the public to explore the efficacy of our proposed new story at shifting how the public thinks and feels about social care. Participants responded to a series of questions before, during and after being presented with different articulations of our proposed narrative to gauge the impact of these on associations with, and understanding of, social care.

WHAT WE’VE LEARNED

The research has given us confidence that a reframed story of social care can command stronger public understanding and support for investment and reform. Moreover, it has demonstrated that the vision and approach advocated by #socialcarefuture provides a persuasive and powerful way to do so.

Before people saw our new narrative, people’s default thinking about social care matches the dominant narrative that we mapped in our previous report, ‘Talking about a brighter social care future’, on campaign messaging and media discourse. Prior to being exposed to our new narrative, people tended to think of social care as being about looking after vulnerable people who cannot look after themselves, and they characterised social care as broken and in crisis. This mirrors evidence of the dominant public discourse around social care and the messaging of campaigners. Many didn’t identify social care as being part of their lives and a positive part of communities. It appears a big leap for people to imagine that social care benefits everyone and could have positive benefits for wider society – the ‘us’ is presently narrow.

But even before we exposed people to our new narrative there was some cause for optimism about our ability to build support for change. When presented with a list of potential government priorities and asked to choose their top three priorities, social care was considered to be important, second only to the NHS, while 60% agreed with the statement, ‘I support greater government investment in social care’.

Dominant ideas about what constitutes a ‘good society’ and the values expressed among the ‘conflicted’ public provide opportunities to promote #socialcarefuture’s vision and approach.

Among our participants, dignity for all, equality and fairness and interdependence were commonly mentioned as underpinning the kind of society we all want. When thinking about social care specifically, they expressed ideas around empowerment, support and lifting each other up. People very much supported the idea that social care should be about caring about and supporting one another. In our quantitative research, 61% of people already agreed that social care is about people ‘having the support they need to live how, where and with whom they choose’.

INVOKING SHARED VALUES

Exploring the role of different values, we found that invoking security and belonging, freedom and control, and community and interdependence helps to shift thinking and build support for change when talking about social care. But how they are used is important, as they perform different roles. Security and belonging speak to what many consider the foundations of good social care but used alone they don’t shift people’s thinking in line with #socialcarefuture’s vision of what social care should achieve and how it should function, centred as it is on individual freedom and control and the role of relationships and community in enabling this. Similarly, while using individual freedom and control alone can help shift the focus from people being cared for, this neglects our interdependence and doesn’t help broaden the sense of ‘us’.

Our headline vision has therefore been designed to create bridges between these values and it is through doing so that we have achieved a mindset shift.

‘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 what matters to us.’

USING EXPLANATORY METAPHORS

People strongly supported our headline vision, but needed to better understand the role of social care in helping to achieve it.
In the early stages of the research, the headline vision ‘we all want to live in the place we call home…’ enjoyed strong support from our participants, but some struggled to make sense of the role social care could play in supporting it. To help explain it, we shared some metaphors, developed in a workshop with #socialcarefuture members in February 2020, in the qualitative focus groups, and developed and tested the most successful ones in the quantitative survey.

THE TESTED METAPHORS

We developed and tested the most successful ones in the quantitative survey as follows:
Weaving the web

When organised well, social care weaves a web of relationships and support in our local communities to allow people to do what matters to them, whatever their age or stage in life
Nurturing the ecosystem

When organised well, social care is about nurturing an ecosystem of relationships and support in our local communities to allow people to do what matters to them, whatever their age or stage of life.

The glue that binds

When organised well, social care is the glue that binds together relationships and support in our local communities to allow people to do what matters to them, whatever their age or stage of life.

Vehicle

When organised well, social care provides people with the vehicle that allows them to do what matters to them, whatever their age or stage of life.

Tool

When organised well, social care provides people with the tools that allow them to do what matters to them, whatever their age or stage of life.

The survey participants were divided into five groups, and each group was exposed to one metaphor each throughout the survey. They were initially presented with the metaphor as a standalone message as above and then asked to indicate their degree of agreement or disagreement with the same statements that they had responded to prior to seeing the metaphor to explore what effect the metaphor had on their understanding and views.

They were then presented with the full narrative statement, which included the metaphor they had previously seen, and asked to indicate their degree of agreement or disagreement with the statements once more.

Following exposure to the first three metaphors (web, ecosystem and glue) as standalone statements, participants began to express views about social care that were more closely aligned to #socialcarefuture’s vision, such as ‘social care is about people having the support to live how, where and with whom they choose’, ‘social care draws together relationships and support’ and, crucially, that ‘living how we choose to live is dependent on the strength of the relationships that we have’. The ‘vehicle’ and ‘tool’ metaphors did not, as standalone statements, achieve a significant shift in the views that participants expressed. However, following exposure to the full narrative, the shift in views and understanding expressed by those participants that only saw the ‘vehicle’ and ‘tool’ metaphors was roughly equivalent to the shift among those exposed to the other metaphors. This suggests that ‘vehicle’ and ‘tool’ can be useful when used in a wider context, but on their own are unlikely to shift understanding and views.

A believable plan for change

Crucially, people needed to feel that the vision was credible and achievable. In the early qualitative stages of the research, while people supported our vision for social care, they were sceptical that it was achievable in practice. To address this, we built some concrete real-life examples of existing good practice into the narrative. In the final narrative we use Community Circles, Personal Assistance and Local Area Coordination. During the research we also used Wellbeing Teams, Shared Lives and Personal Budgets.

‘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 well-being and benefits the local community.’

Care needs to be taken in the examples used and the way that they are explained. For example, while people strongly supported the principle of people having choice and control over their lives, when introduced to the idea of people receiving a personal budget to purchase their own care, independently of the whole narrative, focus shifted to questions of abuse, both by and of people with the budget, and whether they could be trusted to use the money well. The lesson here is to lead our messages by talking about purpose, principles and results before talking about mechanisms and processes.

We also included and tested two different ways to describe who is responsible for organising, funding and delivering social care.

This was in part to allay concerns that approaches drawing on informal support removed government responsibility for change:

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

Or

‘The government must make good social care a priority and begin investing more in it. And more local councils need to think differently about how they organise and fund social care, learning from and investing in these new and more effective ways of doing things now.’
These two statements were included as variables, with sub-groups only exposed to one or the other of them in our narrative statement. The research found no statistically significant differences in the results, suggesting both can be used with equal effect.

THE TESTED NARRATIVE IN FULL

The following is a version of the tested narrative in full, using the ‘weave the web’ metaphor.

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

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.

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.

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 well-being and benefits the local community.

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

What impact did our new narrative have on how the public think and feel about social care?

The narrative increases support for investment and reform of social care and fosters optimism about the future.

Following exposure to the narrative people:

Saw social care as more important: people accorded even greater priority to social care above other areas of government policy.

Considered social care to be more worthy of investment: people demonstrated stronger support for more investment in social care from central government (rising from 60% pre-exposure to 67% after.

Felt social care to be more relevant and valuable: more people regarded social care as important to themselves and to those close to them (rising from 44% pre-exposure to 54% after) and a benefit to both those who need support and the wider community (rising from 58% pre.exposure to 68% after).

Felt more optimistic about the future: people believed that it’s possible to start organising social care in a better and more sustainable way now (rising from 52% pre-exposure to 63% after).

Had a greater sense of the possibility for change: The proportion of people believing that national and local government and communities can successfully work together to sort out social care grew from 57% pre-exposure to 65% after.

The narrative helps to shift assumptions and mindsets about what social care should be and do.

Following exposure to the narrative people:

Shifted their associations from paternalism to empowerment: people were significantly less likely to associate social care with paternalistic ideas such as vulnerability and compassion (declining from 50% to 27% and from 52% to 36%, respectively) and more likely to associate it with words such as independence, community and relationships (increasing from 19% to 33%, 35% to 41% and 12% to 31%, respectively).

Support the principle of people having control over their lives: more people agree that ‘social care is about people having the support to live how, where and with whom they choose to’ (increasing from 61% pre-exposure to 70% post).

Believe that strong relationships are the key to being able to lead the lives we want to lead: people are more likely to agree that ‘living how we choose to live is dependent on the strength of the relationships that we have’ (49% pre-exposure to 60% post).

Understand social care to be about bringing together a range of support, formal and informal: people are more likely to agree that ‘social care draws together relationships and support’ (from 51% pre.exposure to 65% post).

Of course, we have to present these findings with some caveats. They report how people responded in the context of research where they were being asked to focus on social care.
To harness their potential in the real world would require scale, reach, message discipline across different communicators, the right spokespeople, and creative, engaging communications. It would also require ongoing evaluation and refinement.

Nevertheless, the research demonstrates significant potential to build understanding and win support for change by telling this evidence-based articulation of the vision that #SocialCareFuture’s members have created together.

ENDNOTES

Further reading

How to build public support to transform social care – a practical guide
for communicating about social care

How to build public support to transform social care – full research
report by Survation

Talking about social care – easyread report

Talking about a brighter social care future – how social care is talked
and thought about today

Talking about a brighter social care future – easyread report

Acknowledgments

Thank you to Kathryn Quinton and Alice Jennings at Equally Ours for their invaluable partnership in delivering this project, to Jane Carn, Madhur Mehra and Harry Mason at Survation for their research into public thinking, to our Working Group (Wendy Mitchell, Philly Hare, Clenton Farquharson, Sian Lockwood, Karyn Kirkpatrick, Bryony Shannon, Wendy Lowder and Jordan Smith) for their support, expertise and wise counsel, to all who have come together via #socialcarefuture gatherings on and offline to co-create this narrative, to Dr Pen Mendonca for helping us to visualise our vision and approach, to Henry Iles and Alicia Wood for their design work on this and previous reports and to those who have contributed to the costs of carrying out this work, including Keyring, Nesta, Power to Change, Dimensions, Macintyre, Seeability, Macmillan Cancer Support, Choice Support, Alzheimer’s Society, Certitude, United Response, Together Trust, Options, Think Local Act Personal, In Control, Local Government Association, Voluntary Organisations Disability Group and Camphill Village Trust.

In memory of our friend, colleague and storyteller, John Popham

@socfuture #socialcarefuture #oursocialcare http://www.socialcarefuture.blog

Published by In Control Partnerships, PO Box 17649, Solihull, B90 9LA
http://www.in-control.org.uk / Charity registration number 1130761