Members of the Working Group of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Adult Social Care have discussed what they believe are the most important priorities that will help reform a broken social care system.
The debate took place yesterday during a webinar hosted by the Care Workers’ Charity as part of Professional Care Workers’ Week.
Speakers included Liz Jones, policy director at the National Care Forum; Paul Hayes, group strategic development director at CareTech; Peter Hand, Secretariat at the APPG on Social Care; and Sally Percival, co-chair of Think Local Act Personal (TLAP).
Here, HCI lists their views on what they believe are the most important social care reforms in light of COVID-19.
The most important thing for me is parity. We all know that social care has always been second to healthcare and has been for so long, in so many regards – in funding and the recognition of workers – and if we could address that then that would be hugely influential because that addresses so many of the issues around status and funding.
I think because of ‘Clap for Carers’ we have started to see a shift in people becoming more aware and more understanding of social care and we have spoken at the APPG about how we can capitalise on that and use it to bring about parity. That, for me, is the single biggest issue because everything else falls within that. If we could get parity as a starting point then we can build on that.
The most important point is parity, so I’ll talk about the second most important issue and that’s listening to all voices. You can’t have true reform without working with everybody – all stakeholders – and that is including the people who use services, and carers.
For me, that is so important because without their voices and without their experience of knowing what’s good for them then we can’t get it right – reform can’t be right. I would say that all reform must centre on the person and the human element of that reform because without it we’re not going to get it right. There’s that old saying, nothing about us without us, and I think that holds true with the reform of social care and I do believe that the APPG is fundamental in that reform and bringing those voices all together to make authentic change.
One of the things that the APPG is aiming to do is to make sure that when we are talking about social care we aren’t just talking about social care for older people. If we are going to reform social care it has to be for everyone who relies on it. It’s also about putting forward a positive vision about what social care can do.
We always try at the APPG to position social care as an enabler for people to live good lives, whether they are older, whether they are working-age disabled or whatever needs they have. We need to shift the narrative. Too often when we read about social care in the media, we only hear about the things that go wrong, but actually social care is making a massive difference to people’s lives every day.
I also believe parity is the most important issue, so I’ll talk about funding. The sector really needs investment to do a number of things. It needs investment in order to respond to the needs of people better, in a more person-centred way; it needs investment to be able to reward its workforce better; and it needs investment to think about how to move more quickly into the digital space.
I think the experience of the last few months has shown that how the government chooses to invest in social care can have very mixed results, with money intended to get to the sector to support the frontline not actually getting there and, when it does get there, it comes with very specific funding conditions that kind of undermines some of the policies that were intended for the funding in the first place.
So, for me, the way that we are going to be able to achieve parity and to hear people’s voices is to enable us, as a sector, to think about how to meet people’s needs properly rather than trying to fit the solution for somebody’s needs into a particular funding envelope.
I’m not naive about this – I’ve worked in the civil service and local government – and I understand the pressures the public purse, but there are some inequities at the moment, which continue to be increased in the pandemic, meaning that people’s ability to access the care and support they need has curtailed in some instances.
What we really need is a system that is responsive to people’s needs and recognises how we, as providers, can respond to people’s needs. I don’t think this is fantasy world, I think this is something we can achieve if we work together, as a sector, with the Department of Health and Social Care and with the voices of the people we are supporting.