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Proposals to Reboot Adult Care and Support in Northern Ireland

Message of the Week December 2017

The Department of Health has just published a report setting out sixteen proposals to reform Adult Social Care in Northern Ireland. The report not only highlights the challenges and pressure on the system that many social workers will recognise as a day to day reality of their practice, but also sets out the essential contribution social care makes in the lives of individuals, families and communities.

In December 2016 former health Minister Michele O’Neill established the Expert Advisory Panel on Adult Care and Support to develop proposals for change. The Panel members, Des Kelly and John Kennedy engaged extensively across Northern Ireland through a call for evidence, through meetings and workshops with stake holders. Several local social care and social work services such as the C.L.A.R.E Project in Belfast , Living Well (Moyle) and the Mid and East Antrim Age well Partnership are recognised in the report as local good practice examples of community and asset based social care.

The proposals are comprehensive and encompass, social work, social wellbeing, housing, community development, self-directed support, carers, commissioning, and the value of the workforce. There is much in the analysis of the current system and the rationale for the proposed changes that will speak to social workers about why we choose, and continue to work in social work and social care. The panel call for citizens to be put at the heart of a personalised self-directed social care system, and for the value of social care to be recognised and promoted. A further proposal recognises the vital contribution of families and carers, and proposes strengthening the rights of carers. The promotion of social wellbeing, the very purpose of social work is clearly addressed in the report. The report recognises the impact of loneliness and isolation on wellbeing and the key role communities play in building resilience, supporting individuals and families to stay well and stay connected, and a new social work role is outlined within a model of community support across Northern Ireland.

The need for elevation of the status and conditions of the social care workforce is also highlighted, already commenced in Northern Ireland through the introduction by the DoH of mandatory workforce registration and standards of practice and conduct.

In response to the report and proposals the Department of Health is now leading the development of an Action Plan and plans to issue this after extensive engagement and consultation. NI Chief Social Worker Sean Holland said: “I welcome the Panel’s important analysis and thank panel members Des Kelly and John Kennedy for their views and recommendations.

It is clear that, to remain sustainable, adult care and support services will have to undergo significant change. Those changes are best considered within the context of system-wide transformation in line with the ten-year plan for Health and Social Care transformation, set out in ‘Health and Wellbeing 2026, Delivering Together’.

The Panel has been clear about the need for carers and service users to be brought into the heart of transformation, and for a wider debate within society.

As a first step, therefore, the Department intends to discuss with stakeholders about how best to ensure all voices are heard in developing an effective way forward through co-production.

If you would like to read the panel’s report in full, and learn more about each of the sixteen proposals for the transformation of adult social care in Northern Ireland, please follow the links below,