What is Independence?
Unfortunately it is one of those words that means different things to different people, it is not easily definable. If you quickly ask a dozen or so people what the word independence means I am sure you will get a series of similar, but never quite the same.
A quick Google search of the term independent and we get;
1. Free from outside control; not subject to another’s authority
2. Not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence
Yet neither of these terms can really be applied to social care, can they?
Naturally effective social care depends on those who need care services providing the right level of support to help them to live life as fully as possible but, as a result those who need social care depend on others (i.e. carers, care workers etc.) to provide that livelihood and subsistence and, at the same time, that support is subject to local social services authority about the level of support provided.
So how do we define independence in relation to social care provision?
As the term itself is dependent on each persons’ interpretation of it, it becomes ever more important to understand the individuals needs and how they view what independence means to them. One person may view support at home as a means to help them live independently while another may consider it interference and a threat to independence yet both may be in equal need of support and at risk from the same sort of issues (e.g. falls). Obviously we declare that individuals have the right to take risks, as long as they have the capacity to judge those risks, yet such individualism presents problems for local authorities and health services that have a duty to safeguard the vulnerable.
This can, inevitably, lead to a situation where local authorities and health services then decide what independence means in their world. So, in other words, we become dependent on another’s authority about what independence means for us!
Real independence is entirely individualistic. For example independence may mean being able to do whatever you wish at any time yet giving a person minimum social care support at home may actually inhibit that freedom, they may become house bound and isolated rather than having the support they need to get out and live the life they wish conversely, for some, too much support may seem restrictive and intrusive to them again inhibiting their own sense of independence and freedom.
So if we are to succeed in truly providing independence to those who need social care services the first question always must be “What does independence mean to you?” followed by “How can we help you to live the independent life you want?”
Obviously there are restrictions on what public services can actually do yet those restrictions should not halt those first two questions. After those two questions co-production (I still do not like that terminology!) can begin as you work toward a support package that brings the best possible independence to the individual, an independence that helps them live the life they want.