From Covid to communities – the future of social care

November 10, 2020   By Kathryn Smith, Chief Executive, Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE)

“I sometimes think about those dystopian films, where people are searching for survivors in an empty and damaged city. I felt like one of those survivors”.

This quote, from one of trustees, Dr Ossie Stuart, was used in our report, Beyond COVID: new thinking on the future of adult social care. When the pandemic first hit, we applauded the NHS we but were also advocating for all care services to be recognised in the same way as the health sector. And before we knew it, it was all about care homes; the death rate in care homes was quite rightly highly featured on the media and elsewhere. However, our report, which includes many contributions from the sector and, crucially from people who use services like Ossie, looks at all care and support services.

We know of a lot of people in the sector that recognise that the challenges exist beyond the walls of care homes. Sarah Pickup, Deputy CEO at the Local Government Association, was discussing this in one of our podcasts in May. She told us that it’s vital that there is good ‘social infrastructure’: primary care, social care and good community facilities; things that help all of us live a good life in local communities. She says community capacity is the foundation on which this can happen, providing more personalised forms of care, where people like Ossie don’t feel like they’re in a dystopian film.

Because are we simply trying to put the sector back together, like it was before? Or are we going to think bigger – about how we build a sector fit for future generation?

What’s needed for the sector

We say in our Beyond COVID report that three shifts are needed to address the devastating impact that COVID-19 has had on an already struggling social care system. Regarding funding, we call on the Government for a fair and long-term funding settlement for social care. Also, we need to move a focus from purely remedial and acute services towards prevention. And the workforce needs to move from low pay, low recognition and poor conditions, towards higher pay, better conditions, progression and development; and a parity of esteem with the NHS. We are also calling for a long-term plan for social care, mirroring what we have seen with the publication of the NHS Long Term Plan.

Calderdale’s Director of Adults Services and Wellbeing, Iain Baines, was on one of our webinars recently, pointing out that everyone wants ‘transformation’. But Iain also made the point on the broadcast, run by ourselves, CIPFA and Peopletoo, that people need to ‘live a larger life’; and, he says, that transformation won’t happen if people are ‘maintained’ in services. They need to develop their skills, despite the challenges of Covid-19.

It is all about co-production: Putting people who use services at the heart of designing and reviewing those services. In Calderdale they’re now bringing in ‘Project Search’, for instance, so that people with learning disabilities have access to employment opportunities, which improves physical and emotional wellbeing. Iain made a passionate point in the webinar that it must be people themselves who shape the services that can lead to transformation.

We recently welcomed the Government’s Winter Plan for social care. The plan aims to curb the spread of COVID-19 infections in care settings throughout the winter months. At the time of writing the country is preparing for what is likely to be a challenging time. We also hope that that Government, sector leaders and anyone involved in social care find our Beyond COVID report a source of inspiration and ideas. We hope to turn our vision for social care into a reality; one that really gets us Beyond COVID-19.

SCIE: Beyond COVID: new thinking on the future of adult social care

SCIE webinar recording: Social care PAs – the forgotten home care service during COVID-19