I've visited eight adult social care departments this year, and talked with front line staff in all of them.
It was fascinating and motivating to participate in the ADASS Spring Seminar – the most concentrated gathering of adult social care leaders there is. The discussions both in the sessions and around the fringes of the event give a clear view of the agenda of the sector.
As the programme already provided plenty of useful analysis – including from Aileen Murphie (NAO), David Behan (CQC), Jon Rouse (Greater Manchester H&C Partnership), Minister Caroline Dinenage MP, Shadow Minister Barbara Keeley MP, Ray James (NHSE), alongside leading Directors of Adult Social Care and others – we decided to try something different. Our theme drew inspiration from our report last year: ‘Mission: Possible – creating financially sustainable adult social care’.
Having taken this theme to heart (with the appropriate music and dark sunglasses), we were delighted that the workshop was well attended and our efforts well received. We explained that the ‘mission’ for those in the care sector is to promote greater independence and greater financial sustainability. This mission is challenging but achievable – at least for the best agents, with access to the best tools. We explored behavioural science as one of the key tools that can make this mission possible, and tested attendees’ knowledge of the subject through a training quiz which drew on inter national academic studies as well as iMPOWER’s own surveys and trial studies. (We have been asked to produce an online version that Directors of Adult Social Care can share with their colleagues – watch this space.)
I like to think that our energetic and informative approach ties in with what ADASS President Glen Garrod meant when he encouraged everyone at the conference to have “a bit of swagger” about being involved in social care. As Vice President Julie Ogley expanded, “social care needs to get out there and be proud.” I fully agree, and from my perspective, there are two main aspects to this.
First: changing the relationship with the NHS. Now that local authorities have proved themselves on DTOC by reducing delayed transfers of care faster than their NHS counterparts, there is an opportunity to transform Departments of Adult Social Care from minor partners to system leaders and place shapers.
Second, there was explicit recognition from the politicians and central government civil servants at the conference that social care is now sufficiently high profile that it may well have impacted the outcome of last year’s general election. This recognition played into discussions on the forthcoming Green Paper: there was a real sense that there are many votes to be gained or lost in how changes to social care policy are communicated. The public care about social care, but on the whole don’t understand it; so improving understanding must therefore be a priority.
It was also striking and very positive that while those in the sector are clearly very interested in the Green Paper, they are not waiting for it to provide policy answers. There is realism around how long policy changes will take in these Brexit-consumed times, and an acceptance that everyone just has to get on with making change happen.
As Glen said in his speech, now is the time for creative disruption – there is “an explosion of opportunity”. I’ll leave the last words to Julie who referenced our Mission: Possible theme in her closing remarks: “collectively we can make the impossible happen”.