This year could be the “year of opportunity” for social care, if industry leaders focus their agendas on people, the CEO of Care England has said.
Speaking at the Future of Care Conference in London yesterday, Professor Martin Green said providers and local authorities should use the next 12 months to rethink the way they deliver care, by responding to individual needs in innovative and creative ways.
“We need to stop doing things the same way we did 30 years ago and start challenging ourselves,” he said. “As our lives evolve and our expectations change and get more complex, we need to see social care responding to that in very innovative and creative ways. And that means that all bits of the system need to rethink what they do.”
In relation to commissioning and policy, Green said leaders in social care must concentrate on closing the gap between the rhetoric that comes from politicians about putting people first, and our desires to deliver person-centred care.
“If you look at the rhetoric that always comes out of politicians – and indeed service providers – it’s all about people first. It’s all about delivering what people want and require,” he said.
“But if you talk to people who receive services, there is often a gap between that rhetoric that we all try to achieve and the experience of people who uses these services. So our challenge for 2020 is about gap closing.”
Green also spoke to delegates about integration, explaining that true integration is not just about integrating services, but peoples’ seamless experience of care.
“For example, I could get on a plane, go out of Austrian airspace and into German airspace. There is an enormous process going on in the background, but what do I experience? A flight from A to B. I don’t know what is going on in the background, and that has to be our objective when we talk about integrating health and social care,” he explained.
The government should also come up with an integrated workforce plan, where staff have the skills and competences to enable them to support people, whether they are in the NHS or the social care sector, according to Green.
“It is ridiculous for politicians to be talking about integrating systems, and then not having integrated workforce plans,” he said.
The Care England CEO said sector leaders must think about demographics in 2020, and realise that there’s not going to be enough staff to sustain the system into the future. He explained that providers need to embrace technology, innovate and use staff in more effective ways.
Skills for Care said in a report last year that the adult social care sector will need to fill another 580,000 job roles by 2035.
“We really needed to be thinking about that 10 years ago, but now might be our moment. And this 2020 moment should be our moment to look at all these issues and not to think ‘how do we sustain what we’ve got?’ Instead of looking to our feet, we need to look to the horizon,” he said.
Social care professionals should also help lift the stigma around getting support from social care and start talking about it more, so that the issue is raised on people’s agendas and they start to understand the importance of it.
“I was looking at my Sky box the other night and I saw Inside the Ambulance, GPs Behind Closed Doors, One Born Every Minute, Emma Willis Delivers Babies, Inside the Surgery Unit, Hospital, and all those are ways that the NHS is delivered to the public. There are no similar mechanisms for social care,” Green said.
“So in the absence of the media stepping up, I think we need, as a sector, to step up. And we need to make what we do everybody’s business, whether we are working in social care or whether we are working as a carer in the informal care sector.”
The social care sector needs outcome-based commissioning, defined by citizens, not the system, said Green, adding that providers need to use data in order to deliver person-centred care.
“We need to make sure that information flows and that it does so in a way that’s helpful to the person who is being supported, rather than just creating data sets for the sake of it. I’m constantly surprised at how much data is held in places like the NHS, but not used,” he explained.
Finally, care workers need to be acknowledged and paid as professionals, in order to improve their status, and there needs to be a clearly-defined career pathway that starts with core competences, Green said.
“I’m sick of going to the Department of Health and Social Care to be told ‘we need to improve the status of social care workers. I wonder how we do that.’ Well you train them, you pay them and you give them respect. That’s the way to give them status,” he said.
“I want to see in the white paper, or government response, or whatever it is, a really clear acknowledgement of the professionalism of care workers and the way in which those care workers are going to be acknowledged, but also rewarded for the contribution that they make.”