Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Social Care: A Simple Philosophy

Social care exists because people need care and support in their everyday lives. The type of care and support may vary, those with learning disabilities will have differing needs from those with physical disabilities and older peoples care and support will vary depending on the age related conditions affecting them but the bottom line is social care is about supporting those individuals who need some form of help in their everyday lives.

Policy, bureaucracy, regulations etc. have no real meaning in social care unless the directly benefit those individuals who need care services.

So a simple philosophy should begin with a simple question, “how is what I am doing benefitting those I am providing care and support for?”

This simple question can be applied at all levels of social care provision.

At the front line of social care the question is more simplistic and, perhaps, applied more easily.  So, for example, maintaining effective infection control routines benefits the individual from reduced risk of infection or supporting an individual to attend community events benefits their social well-being. There are, of course, examples of where the question is not applied. I am sure we have all heard of tales were care staff take those they are supporting out to places that are of more interest to the staff than the people they are supporting and, at the extreme end of the scale, the behaviours of staff at Winterbourne View were abhorrent and bear no reality to providing care.

Yet at the point of care delivery the philosophy has to be “how is what I am doing benefitting those I am providing care and support for?” the question should also be the basis of care inspections by the Care Quality Commission, or other inspectorates. Not every care provider works in the same way and they should be able to show that their care and support works in a way that benefits those they are delivering a service too.

As we move up through the levels things become a little more complex but the same simple question should apply. The Care Quality Commission should base their work on the same principle. How does their inspection system benefit the individuals who receive care services. After all social care inspectors exist only because social care exists and social care is about those individuals.

At local authority level there is a multitude of bureaucratic levels but each must apply the question to their work. The most obvious level of local authority work is done by social workers and social work assistants (or whatever the preferred term is in a particular authority!). Social workers/assistants have direct contact with social care users but they are subject to systems and procedure and it is those that need to be looked to see if they are designed to benefit those who need care services or if they are designed to benefit the local authority. There is a need for a certain amount of red tape, reporting and recording are essential but each part of that red tape needs to be challenged to find out who it benefits and whether or not it enhances the life of the individual who needs support.

The back office functions, commissioner’s, funding panels, payments etc. must all exist only to improve the lives of those who need care services and their functions must be a benefit to the rather than the local authority itself. Elected councillors should learn to challenge the social care departments and asking how working practices, policies, procedures etc. actually benefit those who need care services.

Even at the highest level of Westminster ministers and civil servants who deal with social care should ask themselves how their work benefits the needs of social care users. As with local authorities the multiple levels of bureaucracy must have the question in mind as they prepare policies and reports, in the edicts they send out to local authorities.

Naturally there are many thousands of people and organisations involved in social care but each should ask themselves how what they do benefits the lives of the individuals who need care services and apply this question to every aspect of their work.  How does this process benefit, how does this terminology benefit, how does this job role benefit etc.

People do, unfortunately, often justify themselves in ways that satisfies their own actions therefore it is important that, at all levels of social care that we challenge people by asking “how is what you are doing benefitting those who need social care service.” David Cameron should be asking Jeremy Hunt who should be challenging the Permanent Secretary right the way through the Department of Health. The Department of Health should be challenging local authorities and national social care organisations who receive Government funding. It should a question that commissioners ask providers, and vice versa, it should be a standard question in every supervision of a person employed, in whatever capacity, in social care. It is a question that should be asked in every meeting and every time procedures are reviewed. It is a question that should be at the heart of everything to do with social care.

Social care does not exist to create jobs, those jobs exist because people need care and support. Social care does not exist to satisfy bureaucracy those systems are in place because people need care and support. Social care exists because people need care and support in their everyday lives and everything we do must be centred around those people.

Ask yourself now – “how is what I am doing benefitting those I am providing care and support for?”