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…..it’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….