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Learning from Covid: five questions for the adult social care sector

Ralph Cook

Upcoming event: I’m hoping to see many of you on 22 July for our online workshop at ADASS Virtual Summer Conference – ‘How to deliver good adult social care – despite Covid’. Bradford and Cambridgeshire have made significant progress towards making good adult social care a reality. What have they learned along the way? How have they coped with the shocks from Covid? And how are they ensuring that change is sustainable? Hear from Bev Maybury, Rob Mitchell and Fazeela Hafejee (Bradford) / Charlotte Black and Jackie Galwey (Cambridgeshire).


Over the last few weeks I called ten Directors of Adult Social Services (DASSs) and asked them about their local experience of Covid, their reflections on what has worked well, what the sector can learn, and the challenges and opportunities that now present themselves. The conversations were frank and thought provoking. Having reflected on them, and having also spent time analysing IMPOWER’s own experience of working with a broad range of clients over recent months, I wanted to move quickly to capture this insight. The result is a new publication being launched today – ‘Learning from Covid: five questions for the adult social care sector’.

While the issues that dominated my discussions with DASSs aren’t new – the sector was already grappling with sustainable transformation and managing demand prior to the pandemic – it is clear that the crisis has crystallised people’s thinking about what needs to be done to drive change going forward.

The sector is already transitioning out of the immediate Covid crisis, and in my view, this is the moment to create a very different future for social care. The real priority now is to grip the opportunities that the pandemic has created, in order to help the sector dramatically ‘bounce forward’ rather than just ‘bounce back’.

To learn lessons from Covid, the sector should be asking itself five questions:

    1. Is structural integration more or less important than a national funding solution?
    2. What is the right balance between acute hospitals and local communities?
    3. Where is the radical ambition to re-shape the provider market?
    4. How does this create a step change in the ways frontline staff work?
    5. Does this mark a paradigm shift in the value and importance of social care?

Our paper shares some initial thoughts on how to start answering these questions; sector leaders need to drive this debate forward and create inclusive ambition across the sector so that it pulls in the same direction. Do join the conversation on Twitter or let me know if you’d like a virtual chat at the ADASS Summer Conference next week.

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Ralph Cook



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