My time on the social care frontline; and at SCIE

Featured article - 28 October 2015
By Dave Probert, personal assistant to SCIE directors

Head-shot of the author, Dave Probert, personal assistant to SCIE directors

I worked in a care home for eight years. In that time I rarely gave the wider sector a second thought. It wasn't that I had no interest. However, you often don't have much time to consider the state of the whole care sector when you have so many things on your agenda. In a typical day I assisted five or six people to get up and to get dressed; I followed this by doing all of the relevant paperwork; then I supported people to eat their lunch; and then I assisted and supported them in the afternoon. The people that I cared for and supported directly occupied the majority of my thoughts.

These days I work for an organisation that looks at the care sector nationally. Now I feel that I am getting a better insight into the sector, having worked on the frontline and also at SCIE. But I also see that there is a lot of concern about the future. This concern is at all levels; people who receive care, care providers, local authorities, and voluntary organisations are all expressing concerns. The general feeling seems to be that there is a lack of money, a lack of skilled labour and, a lack of that most precious commodity in care: time.

Many agree that if the sector is to weather this storm then there are going to have to be some pretty radical changes to how things are done. Services are going to have to become more integrated. There is going to have to be a lot more co-production at all levels and new models of person-centred care.

Now, if you are a frontline carer there is a good chance that a lot of that last paragraph didn't make a huge amount of sense. In my time working in care these were not phrases that I had come across either. There is some progressive thinking going on as to how the care sector needs to adapt. But one problem is that this language is not then always made more widely accessible; so to the lay person it may sound like a contestant on The Apprentice trying to talk their way around failing to sell overpriced salads.

This barrier in communication is something that I come across regularly as I am one of the people at the other end of the general enquiries line at SCIE. Amongst all the calls from hopeful sales people and bewildered couriers, there are enquires from care professionals and members of the public; people looking for advice on safeguarding, personal budgets or finding care for loved ones. For some of those people, the language and structure of the current system can be confusing and frustrating.

For many, I'm probably far from the first person they have spoken to and sadly, some have lost confidence in the system. Obviously the most satisfying result is when we at SCIE can hand out good practice advice which is something that I strive to do, although this is not always possible. What these calls do give me is an insight into what carers, people who receive care, and their families, are experiencing right now. The concerns and difficulties of the people are those that the sector exists to support.

From my experience on both sides of the sector, it's clear that people clearly need to feel that the system is acting in their best interests. I can see that there are big changes coming and it's my hope that with these changes will come a simplification of language and a drive to restore faith in the system as a whole.

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