It was great to have been invited to take part in the ADASS
Spring Seminar last week.
I joined a plenary panel with CQC and DASS representation to
focus on the quality and sustainability of social care. The question thrown to
me by new President of ADASS Julie Ogley was great; she asked ‘what would NCF members
have wanted the conference to hear?’
I talked of the need for us all to walk together; the battle
wasn’t between commissioners and providers and great future care would only be
achieved through partnership. But a real partnership between commissioners,
providers, regulators, and of course people and citizens needing care now and
in the future.
Of course, there is nothing I regret in those words. It is
true this is what members want, and it is true that without this we will not be
able to move forward.
Several battles being
However, ever since then, I have been mulling the ‘exam’
question, and I am struck not by the conversation in that conference room on
that panel, but the many and varied conversations that are happening outside of
the room. It is my use of the word battle I have fixated on, and I think what I
really needed to say was – the battle is not between us but there most
certainly is a battle going on. And it is a battle we all need to recognise and
be part of.
The conference had heard a message from the Minister of Care
the previous day that the Green Paper remained delayed. On the same day the
Secretary of State for Health and Care stated in his evidence to the select
committee that whilst it remained a source of great frustration to all that the
Green Paper was not published, he could not provide any greater clarity to the
committee that it would be delivered any time sooner than ‘in due course’.
Left now with a government that for a wide variety of
reasons (almost all political with a large P) has chosen to suspend desperately
needed debate on the future of social care for over two years, I think we most
definitely are entering into a battle.
The problem to date is this has been fragmented across our
various bodies. Providers have railed at the action of commissioners,
commissioners have criticised providers, workers have shown anger at their
employers, people using services have rightly challenged the efficacy,
navigation, flexibility and responsiveness of a system that has person centred
on the lid, but often something else inside the tin.
With the integration agenda firmly gripping the political
spotlight, we have at times, appeared to create a new front for our battles. We
have been decrying the lack of parity between health and care, calling foul on
yet another announcement that seems to pour resources into the NHS whilst
ignoring the needs of the social care sector.
In addition, we have begun to significantly segment our
concerns. Some say funding is the critical factor, others the workforce and
retention, others that we do not have the right models for now and the future,
and of course that a good grasp of technology is what is needed. We have even
taken to blaming the public for its lack of understanding of a complex system
that we are all part of creating, and for not caring enough about the work we
We then seek to attack these different elements in isolation.
Feeling perhaps a bit like government or indeed politicians across the piece, when
we try to talk to the whole, we will lose our way or lose people along the way
and therefore unravel.
Tackling the whole
However, tackle the whole we must. If we are not to get the
sort of central guidance we have relied on, we must look to our constituent
parts to come together. We need to build up a clear picture of just what
resources we have available between us and work as allies and partners, not
enemies and competitors. Some possible starters for ten:-
The ongoing delays to the Green Paper mean it will not be
possible to deliver a meaningful response to the green paper that influences
the Spending Review. Therefore we need to find ways to work together outside of
that structure to coordinate a response.
The workforce strategy for the NHS is continuing apace.
Again, we will be left in perpetual catch up without a single strategy for
socialcare workforce. Ambitions to incorporate this in the green paper are
likely to come too late. We need to act now.
The numbers of people left unable to access services
continues to grow. We must work together as commissioners, providers and
citizens to ensure that with one voice we make clear that one more person who
is unable to access services is one person too many.
To build and grow the sector in a way that takes full
advantage of the technological changes available now and in the future, we need
to equip colleagues and organisations with the skills and expertise to come on
board. However, in addition, we need to know that those who push the boundaries
will be supported by a regulatory system that recognises the journey and
embraces the vision for change.
Poll upon poll tells us that the public don’t understand
care, that they are unaware of the cost of it, what it delivers and how they
can access it.
Well, we need to turn our own statistics to our advantage.
Over 1.5 million people work in the care sector, 6 million
plus people are carers, 1 million people are in receipt of some sort of formal
care, another 1.4 million work within the health sector. In my mind, that is
just under 10 million who will have a fair idea of what the sector does.
Working on the Kevin Bacon principle of 6 degrees of
separation, that leaves us with almost everyone in the UK within striking
difference of being connected with someone with a strong understanding of the
care sector, so let’s get talking to them.
If there is nothing else we tell them about the sector, then
give them this message #careaboutcare.