Time to open people’s eyes to the truth about social care

8th January 2018

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By Paul Burstow

The challenges facing the care sector are well rehearsed by many commentators, funding pressures and fairness, workforce shortages and skills, rising demand and unmet need, growing complexity and acuity.

Whether it is offering the right care or support to working age or frail older people todays care sector incumbents have a choice, are they going to be the market disruptors responding to changing expectations and adopting technology in new models of care or will they be the disrupted and displaced?

There is no single magic bullet that will ‘fix’ the woes of the care sector and ensure more people can access the right kind of care and support when they need it.  But there are some instrumental changes that could make a difference.

First, the Care Act made wellbeing and prevention the organising principles for adult social care.  Its still early days but it feels they are more honoured in the breach than the observance!

Second, where is housing in the debate?  Housing, and mostly this is the existing housing stock, has a critical part to play in maintaining people’s independence and timely adaptations can make all the difference when it comes to avoiding that life changing tumble.

Third, technology is transforming so many service sectors and the way we live our lives and do business.  Yet both the health and care sectors have been late adopters.  Workforce and productivity challenges place a premium on adopting even the most basic of IT let alone looking to make better use of remote monitoring and digital connectivity to deliver more predictive and anticipatory care.

Four, people are voting with their feet.  Families are looking for reassurance and are looking to the likes of Amazon and Apple to provide the platforms and the products that turn dumb domestic appliances in to smart devices.  The opportunity to repurpose everyday consumer goods such as the Amazon Echo, Internet connected domestic appliances and gadgets is already being pioneered but opens the door to a whole new model of supported living.

Five, its not just about the money.  Of course any successful reform of social care must answer the questions: Who pays and how much?  But these questions are pointless unless we are clear what we are paying for.  Is it really good enough to simply to support a better-funded status quo?

Awareness of social care has never been greater.  But understanding remains shallow with many people at best unclear and at worst ignorant of what social care includes and above all that it is means-tested.  Before any reform of social care can take root the first task must be to ensure the public understand the true nature of the social care offer it is replacing.

Rt Hon Paul Burstow, is chair of the Social Care Institute for Excellence, he served as Care Minister in the Coalition and was responsible for drafting the Care and Support Bill, which became the Care Act.  He is currently serving as an independent expert advisor to the Government on its forthcoming Green Paper on social care.

Paul Burstow is speaking at the Future of Care Conference taking place on Tuesday 13th March at The King’s Fund, London. Book your tickets today. 

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