Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Radically Rethinking Social Care Policy

Naturally many people who need social care services also need health services, but not all of them. Increasingly many may also need housing services, welfare and benefit support or employment support. Obviously for many transportation support is also an issue and we must not completely forget that most social care services are delivered in communities through local government.

For those who need social care support the range of support they need is a combination of many services all delivered by different sectors of local and national Government.

Unfortunately when we hear talk of integrated services the focus is on the link between health and social care.

Hardly a surprise considering that social care is currently under the remit of the Department of Health and the current focus on integrated services has largely been led by the responses to various reports that have highlighted the frankly appalling treatment of social care users in both health and social care settings.

The latest proposal from the Labour Party is to push social care under the immediate remit of the NHS but this fails to take into account individual need as not all social care users need health services and those that do only need health as a part of their overall package.

Unfortunately the proposal is firmly and unequivocally stuck in the current mindset of thinking where social care is subservient to all other services as reflected in its placement within the Department of Health.

Like it or not social care is not a minor area public policy any more. The rapidly ageing population means that social care is ever more important in our society and the services many need are of greater importance that such services 40 or 50 years ago. Those with disabilities are also living longer and those on top of the service delivery chain need to recognise the changing needs of all people who need care and support as they age. They also need to consider the younger population who need care and support from society, including employment and benefit support.

Essentially the primary service is now social care and all other services should be integrated with it for the benefit of every individual who needs social care services. It should also be focused on those who care for those who need social care services, whether or not they are entitled to funded social care support.

It is essential we radically and thoroughly rethink social care and recognise its importance in society today. Naturally this will be difficult, creating change in a firmly entrenched system is not easy but if we are to create a society that truly provides the best care and support then we must try. The first challenge is to put social care first, to completely and swiftly change the outdated mindset that currently exists.

Millions of people need social care services, not all get them funded but that does not mean they should be excluded from social care policy, more than a million people work in social care and how they perform and are managed has an impact on the lives of millions and the workforce must have effective policy in place to ensure high quality care and effective management. Billions of pounds are spent on social care every year and there must be proper leadership nationally to ensure that money is spent effectively for the benefit of those who use care and support services.

There is, undoubtedly, a need now to change the way we think about social care, a need now to radically change how social care policy is created and, probably, most importantly a need to place social care on top of, or alongside, other major areas of social policy which impact on the lives of social care users.