One year on from PM’s pledge: social care needs a reset

This picture should serve to remind us all that Adult Social Care is not just about the elderly. It starts at the age of 18 for many who would otherwise have died young and will last for the whole of their lives which can be a life span as long as everyone else thanks to medical advances.

Social care needs a reset and must not simply revert back to the way it was prior to the pandemic, a coalition of councils, health and care organisations and charities set out today.

Later today I am chairing a virtual LGA conference of more than 200 people from the public, private and charitable sectors concerned with adult social care. I will also be launching at it the seven key principles that all the organisations have agreed should be the guide for Government action. It will be three years since the Government promised a Green Paper on Adult Social Care and have since announced 4 other dates which were also missed!

It’s also 3 years since the Government held a nationwide pandemic planning event the results of which seem to have been totally ignored!

One year after the Prime Minster first pledged to set out a clear plan to “fix social care”, they insist the Government needs to publish its timetable for social care reform before Parliament returns from summer recess in September.

The Local Government Association, which represents councils in England, together with 32 other organisations – including the Alzheimer’s Society, NHS Confederation and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services – have put forward a set of key principles, which must underpin reform of social care and support considering the many lessons learned from the pandemic. These will be published at a webinar hosted by the LGA today on the future of adult social care.

These are vital to ensure people of all ages and with a range of different needs can live the life they want to lead, in recognition of social care’s unique value.

The legacy of the COVID-19 outbreak, which has disproportionately affected our older and most vulnerable people, means that a radical rethink is needed of what we want social care to be and how we can help achieve it. Any such plan should take account of the long-held issues facing social care prior to the pandemic and crucially, what we have learnt during the current crisis.

The seven principles cover vital aspects of every part of social care, support and wellbeing, including:

  • Putting people first
  • The importance of social care’s local dimension
  • Adequate and sustainable funding
  • Supporting the care workforce
  • How care is provided and commissioned
  • Health and integration
  • The scope of care and support reform

Many lessons have been learned from the pandemic, both positive and negative, and it has raised the profile of the importance and value of social care in its own right. The LGA said that health and social care are equally important and should have parity of esteem, so that plans to reshape and integrate health and care services in communities are locally agreed and based on local need and priorities.

It is vital that the voice of people with lived experience of social care is heard the most on the way forward. The Government should also work closely with councils and local partners to ensure social care’s role in supporting healthy, resilient communities based on prevention, wellbeing and public health is fully understood and maximised.

Extra funding for social care should not just meet the additional demands caused by COVID-19, but also meet pre-existing pressures that were pushing the system to breaking point before this crisis hit. Before the pandemic, adult social care services faced a funding gap of almost £4 billion by 2025. Funding should be allocated with as few conditions attached as possible and in a way which helps move towards a more person-centred and preventative model of care and support. The Government should also commit to a new deal for the care workforce, acting on pay, training and development.

Care providers have played a critical role in the last few months in keeping people safe and well, alongside the NHS. The pandemic has shown that the ways in which people are supported are many and varied and stretch beyond just residential and home care. This wider mix of often smaller provision is just as important for delivering care and support, which is personalised and focussed on people’s aspirations and strengths.

Given the range of what needs to be done, which these principles set out, there should be plenty of ambitious scope for reform. While the issue of people selling their home to pay for care is an important one in the debate about fairness, reforms need a wider vision about the purpose and value of social care for people of all ages, including unpaid carers.

In opening the Conference I will say the following after having taken my audience on a magical mystery tour of the Penny Lane area to show what the 7 principles mean in practice.

“For too long we have been promised a plan to fix the social care crisis but people who use and work in these vital services are still waiting. The COVID-19 crisis has proved that we need a complete reset, not a restart, when it comes to the future of social care.

“The pandemic has also served to highlight the incredibly valuable role of social care in its own right and why it is more important than ever before that we find a long-term and sustainable solution, so that people of all ages can live the life they want to lead.

“These seven principles, which have support from a number of prominent organisations across the health and care sector, need to inform and underpin the Government’s thinking on the future of adult social care in this country.

“Everyone who has been involved in dealing with the dreadful effects of this disease, including older people, unpaid carers, the most vulnerable and those who support them, deserve to know that the lessons learned will be used in shaping the future.

“This should mean care and support is properly based around every individual, keeping them safe, well and as independent as possible, and in their own home and community for as long as possible.

“We urge the Government and other parties to begin cross-party talks on the future of adult social care, so we can get on with the job of realising our shared ambition of supporting people to live the lives they want to lead.”

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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