Social care doesn’t just need more money – but a transformation promoting independence and joined-up services
Following the launch of a new report on ‘The Future of Social Care’ by the County Councils Network (CCN), Jonathan Rallings, CCN’s Senior Policy Officer, says funding alone will not deliver the step change that is needed without substantial reform to the social care system.
As the vaccine rollout gathers pace and the Government sets out its roadmap to recovery, it finally feels like we are moving closer to putting the nightmare of the last year behind us and beginning to look forward again.
For those of us in adult social care this means the long-awaited proposals for much needed reform of the system which were promised at the beginning of the present administration, and which in the wake of the pandemic are even more essential.
In anticipation of a social care white paper being released in 2021, the County Councils Network (CCN) has been considering the type of social care system that is fit for purpose in the 2020s – and councils’ role within this. CCN has maintained for some years that while a sustainable funding model for adult social care is vital, funding alone will not deliver the step change that is needed without substantial reform to the system.
That is the starting premise of our new report, ‘The Future of Social Care’, produced in collaboration with Newton Europe. We did not want to simply re-tread well-worn arguments to come up with yet another enormous figure of how much money the system is now lacking.
Instead, the report takes the alternative approach of examining what constitutes an ‘optimised model’ of social care delivery based on key aspirations such as maximising independence for individuals and ensuring joined-up integrated services across health and care. This model can then be used as a template for reform and a yardstick by which government can determine what resource the sector really needs as it considers the thorny question of how to raise revenue for reform – necessarily a national rather than local policy question.
The eventual report was the culmination of months of research, with engagement from over 150 people within the adult social care sector – including not just those working in local authorities, but also providers, residents, and service users.
What was striking in the engagement carried out was how hand-to-mouth councils are operating, with a significant chunk of social care funding renewed each year. Our member councils were clear: this does not promote long-term planning.
Perhaps most crucially, the local delivery of care by councils is one of the most important foundations for reform. Local authorities are best placed to bring care closer to communities because they are the community: they know their people and they know their providers. Their role should be enhanced, not diminished.
This includes better utilising models of care such as the Retirement Community which embed concepts of healthy ageing, prevention, and reablement closely within communities rather than separating them towards institutional bodies. That is why CCN’s member county authorities have increasingly prioritised such developments in recent years and has been working with ARCO to make their development more bureaucratically straightforward.
Our report’s recommendations also foreshadowed some of the reforms set out just days later in the newly published Health and Care White Paper such as strengthening the role of social care within Integrated Care Systems (ICS) and aligning ICS boundaries with those of social care authorities to maximise collaboration in the drive for more joined-up care. At the same time, parity of esteem between the health service and social care – and a more positive profile for care – are also key ingredients for reform and we are pleased the white paper sets out an aspiration towards closer integration.
In the year before COVID brought everything to a grinding halt, there had been accelerating momentum gathering behind social care reform. By necessity the last year has required the primary focus to be on day-to-day concerns. But now it is time to start looking to a better future and restarting the conversation which will deliver the social care system we all know could exist with the right reforms.