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Solace Virtual Learning Week: let’s see the social care opportunity rather than the social care crisis

by | Oct 20, 2020 | Adult social care | 0 comments

We must understand and articulate the sector’s positive economic and social contribution post-Covid

Last week I attended Paul Najsarek and Sir Andrew Dilnot’s session during Solace Learning Week, and was interested to hear a constructive and positive framing of social care, instead of the usual emphasis on ‘crisis’.

Both speakers swiftly moved beyond the narrow-framed problem definitions of funding and integration with health, and onto what the sector can actually do to move forward – something that has been missing from the debate for too long.

Several themes that Paul touched on resonated strongly with me:

  • ‘System not silo’: reinforcing the need for system leaders to work across organisational boundaries to affect improved outcomes for local people. This is the core of complex systems thinking and requires new thinking and approaches to deliver successfully
  • ‘Local (not just national)’: the core argument against embedding social care into the NHS is the need for local understanding and decision making, which has been reinforced through our learning from the response to Covid
  • ‘Parity of esteem’: recognising the need to shift the balance of power from acute settings so that it is more evenly distributed across health and social care (including with the voluntary and community sector)

The session also positioned adult social care as a positive investment for economic value as opposed to a ‘drain on the exchequer’; a significant reframing. For too long additional funding in adult social care has been framed as a deficit – a cost or loss. As a sector we know only too well the negative impact of deficit-based language. Behavioural science also tells us that losses loom much larger than gains – by a factor of almost 2:1.

Reframing investment in adult social care as a positive economic force is therefore key. The sector creates jobs both public and private sector, but more importantly it maximises the independence of people so that they can continue to generate economic value or play a more active role in society.

Our insights suggest that in between 40-60% of cases, some of the demand for adult social care services is ‘avoidable’ – meaning that some support is being provided to people who would actually benefit from being more independent (and who could potentially therefore contribute more to that economic and social value). The sector already delivers significant economic value through its support to people and their carers, yet the opportunity (with sustainable funding) is to unlock the avoidable demand that exists and make an even strong contribution to people’s lives and the wider economy.

It is up to central government to make bold funding decisions for the future of adult social care, but it is up to the sector to win the argument to make that happen. Social care is a critically important part of the economy and health system, and it is wonderful to see this finally being recognised. Understanding and articulating the sector’s positive economic and social contribution post-Covid will be key to its success. Let’s see the social care opportunity rather than the social care crisis.