Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Social Care Culture Wars

One of the changes promised by the Care Quality Commission in their “Fresh Start” document published yesterday ( was that they will be “checking providers who apply to be registered have the right values and motives, as well as ability and experience.”

This could be challenging!

Whether we like it or not the bulk of social care provision, at present, is delivered by companies, large and small (and every size in between!) who are out to make a profit, because without profitability the business will fail. Therefore private company that applies to register a care service has, naturally, to have the right business values and motives to be profitable in order to be able to deliver the care service.

This fact highlights one of the issues with social care in England and why integration seems such a difficult thing to achieve.

The word ‘silos’ is often used to describe the way in which different parts of the care system are isolated but, in reality, we should see them as different cultures and, as often happens with cultures, the existence of that particular culture is built on difference rather than commonality and those within a culture will defend the values and motives that underpin that culture.

So at the front line of social care provision we have providers who have to make money, even charities and not for profit companies have to ensure their income in order to carry on their business, so they have to exist in a ‘market’ culture where income must exceed (or at least match) expenditure, their actual provision of care is limited by the monies they receive, however good their values and motives are in terms of wanting to care they are constrained by economics. There are over 12,000 registered care providers and each one will have a different organisational culture based on the values and motives of the company owners.

Another culture within the system are the Local Authorities, 152 with social services responsibilities. Each on will have their own ‘corporate’ identity, influenced by working practices, senior leadership and, importantly, politics. All local authorities are over seen by elected councillors and this, obviously, impacts on the organisational culture. Somewhat like the EU, the heads of social services departments gather together to discuss overarching policy but, again like the EU, these can be implemented slightly differently in each council because of the values and motives of those who lead the council.

Within the local authority system are other elements that those who need care services also need to access, e.g. housing. In many areas these are located within a different authority than the one responsible for social care which, again, has its own particular organisational culture.

Then there is the NHS, another completely different organisational culture, founded on a basis totally different from care providers and local authorities. Health services (either NHS or private) have grown from medical science with a fairly rigid hierarchy of who is allowed to do what and developed a clinical culture that is different from other fields of work. The NHS itself is more fragmented now, which is why individual hospitals or trusts have failed because of inadequate leadership, but the overall structure is the same. In this realm we have the Royal Colleges which underpin the professional expertise of those who work in health, and which elevate the roles they undertake, all of this creates the values and motives of the NHS and other health services.

The problem for those who need care services is that all of these different cultures have different languages and practices, all have different values and motives that underpin their roles.

Because different cultures defend their identity through maintaining difference with other cultures, the integration needed by those who need care services is hampered and will continuously be so unless we develop a culture which recognises that the individual is more important than any of the organisational cultures involved.

To achieve connected services for people who need care services all involved need to recognise the commonalities in their services and who they benefit the individual.

Before care providers can be judged on their values and motives we need to establish what those values and motives are and how they benefit the individual rather than imposing values and motives that cannot be achieved at the ‘market’ end of the system and which, ultimately, impact negatively on the care service provided.