The Changing Conversations around Social Care……

When I say the words “Social Care” to you, what images, what thoughts spring to mind? Like most, you probably have said ‘vulnerable’ ‘needy’, for older people amongst others maybe? You’d be like most people in society. But what if we wanted to change the way people thought about Social Care? How would we do that? Certainly a mammoth task…….

But we all know the current system doesn’t work so something has to change. Social Care appears to be the poorer cousin of the NHS…we talk about “Our NHS”, yet Social Care is seen as happening to others, someone else’s problem…..

I wrote about my involvement with Social Care Furture with Neil Crowther and Philly after our last meeting – you can read it here if you like? They were just my initial thoughts.

Well we had our second meeting last week, to hear the findings of some focus groups they’d run. The aim being to find out what the public thought and then trying to change the way they think.

Normally, if I was in a room for the meeting, I’d be typing away happily throughout but on zoom it isn’t possible. My writing has gone really up the creak over the last few years but on that day I thought I’d try my faithful post it’s again but just write a few words on each – key words that might spark recognition. By the end I’d finished the post it pad and had a pile of somewhat illegible scrawl. Some I could make out some I just didn’t have a clue. I also took screen shots of all the slides to help me write this as well. So we’ll see how it goes……

At the moment the Social Care system functions around people fitting into services. But does the government know what we, as individuals need to feel enabled and supported? Of course not because they make assumptions that we all fit neatly into boxes. We’re offered services not choice. So maybe the change needs to be to offer choice and not to be told what we might or might not be eligible for as what’s available may not give us what we need in order to have a life?

Government departments work in silos at the moment instead of working together, another problem for Social Care. Philly gave the example of the Department of Works and Pension penalising you for having a spare room which maybe leads someone to not being able to have live in support to provide care. Nothing is joined up.

People need to feel ‘valued’, ‘of use’ no matter what their situation. Like people with dementia still need to feel valued yet we’re so often written off. The medical world offers us nothing positive and so often follows the line of ‘There’s nothing we can do’ so the balance of medical and social needs to be addressed.

So how do you move from a vision so entrenched in peoples minds of social care happening to someone else? We need something concrete to offer people. Social Care needs to be seen as general health and well being, not something accessed just at crisis point.

The company that had been tasked with holding a focus group  gave us a breakdown of the process. The first stage being a ‘Mixed Persuader’ group – 22 people from different backgrounds, of differing ages, sexes etc, but ‘persuadable’ simply because they were politically middle ground – neither extreme right wing or left wing.

All this took part over 5 sessions across zoom.

They were asked initially “What does a good society look like?” They all agreed with our concept of

But they were entrenched in the concept that it happened to others and therefore had nothing to do with them. As I said before,  strange how we call the NHS “Our NHS” yet social care is for ‘others’

The NHS is seen as an entitlement yet being in receipt of social care has negative associations.

The long term narrative has to change, the language used, the messages given out. The media and political climate is hard to change and influence and it’s them that often influence how people think.

Covid has provided us with a good example of coming together as one. People playing by the same rules. People respond better if they have something concrete to follow. So once masks were brought it, it gave people ‘permision’ to wear a mask and not feel stupid, so more wear masks. Obviously you’ll always have those who don’t follow the rules but these are then frowned on. A simple message clearly stated is more accepted and understood than something woolly and unclear – as we’ve seen from the government throughout Covid.

As the 5 sessions went on for these 22 ‘persuders’ they began to see our way of thinking, but were still stuck as they needed to know ‘who would be responsible, how would it work practically? Our ideas appeared too idealistic and they wanted the detail of who, when and how?

We accept we have to pay taxes for the NHS but not for social care at the mo as it still happenes’ to others’ in many peoples minds so not relevant to them and therefore not acceptable to have to pay taxes.

In my opinion, the NHS mixed a trick during the worst of Covid – people stayed away from A&E for fear of getting Covid. It was used for the right reason, for emergencies, but mishaps and people becoming unwell didn’t stop happening, so where did people go? Maybe they ventured to pharmacies for advice, Minor Injuries Units or asked family or friends. They didn’t need A&E; they went to the right place for help. But quickly the ‘norm’ has returned and people are back using A&E inappropriately.

We need to create a society of ‘interdependence’. We often talk about enabling people to live independently but really everyone is ‘interdependent’ on someone or something else in order to live their lives. Stuff happens in our lives that leads to us needing extra support. I could say I live independently but I don’t. I can’t manage to live alone, as I wish to live, unless others support me.

I loved the blob tree slide above that  they showed to demonstrate this…

Community assets aren’t seen as social care, yet my community supports me without even realising it. I support people without even realising it. I post my pictures, which make people who have been isolated, feel happier and enable them to feel part of our community and less isolated. So ‘resources’ are within all of us within our own communities. We can give as well as take support.

Often bureaucracy comes in the way of people helping one another. Covid, again, has come up with the example, whereby communities wanted to help feed one another. Normally there would be reems  of paperwork and bureaucracy  to pile through, but this was all cut and stopped and communities were allowed to cook meals for those who needed them and deliver them.

As one slide said:

So we are part of the solution – each and everyone of us. We carry a complex history re social care, how we see ourselves and one another. We need to get away from the concept of Social Care as a service that we have done to us. So who would be the ‘responsible agents’ – ie who will be responsible for delivering all this change. Well we have to get the right balance between Governement and local commissioning right.

At this point in the meeting we were split into two groups magically on zoom, very clever….

The challenge was:

to explain in straightforward terms how it is we would like social care to be organised in future to deliver our vision and who can and should do what in the immediate future to start moving us there.  We’ll be expected to imagine we’re sat at a bus stop with a minute to tell a stranger in a way that might hopefully enlist their support.”

 It was so difficult to be succinct, and once back together, time for a sneaky piccie of some of the people I’m involved with holding up their yellow cards

But basically the points made by both groups, when brought back together, was that social care is everyone’s business. We’re all affected. From the mother and toddler club that supports mums to come together with their children to someone in need of support in the home. Government needs to fund social care but allowing local governments to use the funding different, using the resources from communities to enable support and for each of us to give and take from our society in order to live our lives to the full…….

 With the news from Scotland of the potential for a National Care System along the same lines as the NHS, maybe this would make social care everyone’s concern just as the NHS is. Maybe this would stop people seeing social care as happening to ‘others’ and not them. But I’d wish they’d call it National Support service…’s not always care that people need but support to be able to live the life they want to lead…

Phew! That was heavy and very hard work 🤯 but I find it all so fascinating and worth while…..roll on the next meeting….


About wendy7713

On the 31st July 2014 I was diagnosed with Young Onset Dementia. I may not have much of a short term memory anymore but that date is one I’ll never forget. I’m 58 years young, live happily alone in Yorkshire, have 2 daughters and I’m currently still in full time employment in the NHS. However, I’m now in the process of taking early retirement to give me a chance of enjoying life while I’m still me. I've started this blog to allow me, in the first instance, to write all my thoughts before they’re lost. If anyone chooses to follow my ramblings it will serve as a way of raising awareness on the lack of research into Alzheimer's. It will hopefully convey the helplessness of those diagnosed with dementia, as there is no cure – the end is inevitable. However, I’m also hoping I can convey that, although we've been diagnosed, people like me still have a substantial contribution to make; we still have a sense of humour; we sill have feelings. I’m hoping to show the reality of trying to cope on a day to day basis with the ever-changing environment that dementia throws at those diagnosed with the condition. What I want is not sympathy. What I want is simply to raise awareness.

15 thoughts on “The Changing Conversations around Social Care……

  1. Hi Wendy – I work in Adult Social Care – training for Social Workers. I agree totally with your comments. The only thing I would add is that the county council that I work for actively puts choice and control ahead of services when making an assessment of needs. We work under the Recovery Model of practice and look at how people can ‘recover’ their life – not recover from a life changing event or diagnosis but recover the life they had before that. We are not perfect but always strive to put the resident first and to us Social Care (not health care) is our priority as if you get social care right it often promotes better health.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hmm, sounds good. But looking at Health and Social Care Partnership budgets, social care is always the loser. I have worked in Care and know about budgets, when I asked for Care (different council) no chance. I have been told by many insiders that emergencies only are considered. Let’s be honest about the situation so the public can realise how bad it is….

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So interesting Wendy !
    I totally agree about social care being the poor relative and you are right we do tend to see it as something for others.
    I also think your point about care and support is spot on! The image of social care is to disable people almost as they become progressively more dependent whereas in general the NHS is seen as a place to recover and become more independent again.
    If only we could see social care as support so many people are against any kind of support in their homes or anywhere else because they see it as losing their independence others taking over but it doesn’t have to be like that.
    We need to promote social care as an enabler supporting people to continue to live their lives as they want to and are able to do so with the right support.
    So much to do!! But you are definitely somebody to have on board Wendy.
    You have certainly got me thinking!!!


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Wendy. This is a particularly interesting post for me as I used to work as a senior social care officer in Scotland. Now I volunteer with the Care Inspectorate supporting inspectors who visit care homes (until COVID-19! 🙄 Things in Scotland are a bit different and there is a strong emphasis on the needs and wishes of the individual and working in social care, be it in the community, at home or in residential care, services work together for the best outcomes for the person requiring support to live well. The individual should always be part of the decision making as should family or significant others. It is not perfect but the ethos is clear for those who work in social care. It is their responsibility to ensure their service users and families understand their contributory part and be made to feel comfortable taking part.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent article, Wendy; the Radio 4 programme today included a feature on social care, or rather how inadequate it can be. So good to see Deborah’s comment, but as you say it’s an uphill challenge.

    I wasn’t sure what the “blob tree” meant, so I looked it up via Google. Very interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Wendy, You’ve managed to give a good flavour of the meeting despite not being able to type notes while you were Zooming. However, if you want to type and Zoom at the same time (and don’t have two devices to use one for zoom and one for typing there is a way. If you use a laptop or computer for Zoom (rather than a tablet or phone) you can view the Zoom box at one side of the screen (as long as it’s not on full screen) and you can have an open Word document (again on reduced view size) at the other side of the screen. If you set the margins of the document to 1cm top, bottom and left and 10cm right then the bit you type in is narrow enough for you to be able to see the width you’re using in the bit of screen that’s spare, and you can type while Zooming. You can change the margins later if you want. I hope this helps. Carol

    Liked by 1 person

  6. All very well, but we need action!! Society has to be informed about the problems. In our bubble we understand it, but until you enter you can’t believe how bad it is. You do a lot of publicity, but we need more stories out there how bad it is..

    Liked by 1 person

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