Foreword for new thinking on the future of adult social care

Rt Hon Paul Burstow, Chair, SCIE

Paul Burstow

The COVID-19 pandemic represents an unprecedented challenge, testing all of us involved in social care to the limits. As COVID-19 reached its peak in May, I wanted to make sure that we started to learn the lessons, and to think about what care needed to look like when we get through the worst of the crisis.

This led me to ask my colleagues at SCIE to commission a programme of essays, podcasts, and to host a roundtable – which we were delighted that the Minister of State, Helen Whately MP was able to attend – to consider these lessons and what they mean for the future. This report summarises the main themes from all these different contributions, and makes recommendations for the future of adult social care.

The pandemic has amplified inequalities in our society: whilst we may all have been facing the same storm, we have not all been in the same boat; indeed, some have had no boat at all. The murder of George Floyd has energised Black Lives Matter as a global movement for change. Government and public services must re-double efforts to tackle society’s deep inequalities. Reducing these stark inequalities must be at the forefront of any future vision for care.

At the time of writing this, many areas are re-entering forms of lockdown and the talk is of a second wave of infection. Despite these pressures, we cannot further delay the need for radical reform. In fact, we must seize the opportunity to envision and plan for a different future for social care; one that is aspirational and hopeful and gets to the heart of how social care liberates people, as Social Care Future put it:

We all want to live in the place we call home with the people and things that we love, in communities where we look out for one another, doing the things that matter to us.

In this report we call for a long-term plan for social care that will deliver on this vision. We also identify three shifts we think need to happen to build a system that is financially sustainable and fair to access, preventative in focus and supported by a well-paid workforce that is taken care of. We also set out a number of specific recommendations for the Government and other organisations which we hope are considered as part of future plans.

I hope that Government and sector leaders find this report a source of inspiration and ideas for turning that vision for social care into a reality, one that gets us Beyond COVID-19. As ever, SCIE stands ready to support the sector with its journey to a better place.

Kathryn Smith, Chief Executive SCIE

Kathryn Smith

Since I became a care worker at 16, I have not known a worse period for social care. Every day, as more reports come in about deaths that could have been prevented, lack of testing kit and personal protective equipment, or local authorities and providers facing financial ruin, I feel a sense of despair.

However, I am also reminded every day of the enormous resilience, versatility, passion and empathy of the care workforce, and within wider communities. And I ask myself, can we come out of this crisis stronger? I think we can.

A friend of mine, Sarah Mitchell, who manages a care home wrote these words for SCIE back in early May, right in the middle of the first peak:

But it’s not just the present. Where will we be in six months’ time? We have to start planning ahead. We’ll become smarter, especially over the use of IT. We’re starting to get online support from GPs – so in many ways, working practices are bound to change.

It’s a statement infused with optimism and visions for better social care: Sarah, like thousands of her colleagues, believes a better future is possible.

When I kicked off the series of Beyond COVID-19 articles, which form part of this report, I asked a series of questions about the future of adult social care, including:

  • How do we capture and galvanise the undoubted social solidarity which has risen up in many communities?
  • How do we create a new contract between the citizen and the state which binds people to a relationship of mutual rights and responsibilities?
  • What is the role of the care home in the future?
  • What should the workforce of the future look like?

In this report we have sought to address some of these questions, and helped by our colleagues who wrote the articles, took part in podcasts and the roundtable, set out a roadmap for reform to enable the sector to arrive at that positive future we all desperately want for social care.

Since I arrived in May, SCIE has been deeply involved in supporting the sector on COVID-19, developing national tools on everything from commissioning and day care, to learning disabilities and safeguarding. In doing this work we have engaged with many thousands of people in the sector. The common message has been: we need radical and lasting reform. We need investment and a better supported workforce. And we need to unleash the potential of digital technology and innovation. I agree with them, and my overriding priority at SCIE is to support the sector in delivering on these goals.

Let’s look forward working together to build a social care and support we can all be proud of for years to come.

New thinking on the future of adult social care
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