Insights

Sally Felton: 6 minute read

ADASS Spring Conference: Supporting social care discourse

We are passionate about social care, monitoring the latest thinking and technical advances to come up with innovations to support the sector. We seek out talented individuals who add to our collective knowledge and by that token, look for organisations that have similar thoughts. One of these organisations is the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS). We are proud to sponsor them and were in attendance for their recent, Spring Conference.

The perception of adult social care

This year’s ADASS Spring Conference was once again held at Yarnfield. A site for change discourse, to bring together those directors and assistant directors, alongside MPs and thought leaders across the sector. It is always a pleasure to meet with everyone at the conference and take note of the common themes that were emerging. A true meeting of the minds if there ever was one.

One of the main themes that emerged from the conference was that the general public was waking up to the cost of social care. This seems like an obvious oversight but unless your family has been affected by the costs of care in old age, then why would you know the costs? A talk by Anna Quigley, Research Director at Ipsos Mori, suggested that the majority of the public believed that like the NHS, social care in retirement is free.

This perception is changing as more and more people have experience of arranging social care for their loved ones. Care costs need to be understood by the public, as at the moment, there is a belief that social care is run by this NHS. This in turn leads to a rise in those who believe that the taxes they pay throughout their lives go towards this cost and therefore, why should they pay again for care?

Stop waiting and help yourself

Whilst the theme of social care funding and paying for your care is naturally a decision for central government, a talk by Caroline Dinage MP, hinted that local authorities need to get on with it. The Green Paper will arrive but it will not be the silver bullet that many are hoping for. Your destinies (local authorities) are in your hands and the time to act is now.

Whilst it is disappointing to hear that the Green Paper is not going to be here anytime soon, we do agree that we need to help ourselves. We need to look at what we can do today, to help those in need live the best lives possible. This above everything else is what should be the driving force behind our actions.

Brexit is here and it is going to affect our lives greatly when it kicks in but the actions we take today can temper this. The primary example here is of care workers from the EU, who that make up a large majority of the workforce. With Brexit there is a danger that they will not feel welcome and go back to their home nations, rather than applying for settlement. This cannot be allowed to happen, lest the system be left with more holes than a Donald Trump speech.

Social care – providing value for money

In addition to the Ipsos Mori research pointing to the public perception of care and that it should be free, it also pointed to the public expecting high-quality care. This is arguably a desire that is shared by all; why would we expect substandard care and accept it for our loved ones? We wouldn’t but then where does the money come from?

Care costs. This is an imperial fact that we cannot get away from and another barrier to becoming a career. The industry is vastly underpaid for the work it undertakes, with many living on minimum wage. This alongside the impending Brexit declaration may force many EU workers to jump ship and this would be disastrous.

The industry is already fighting to provide value for money against resources that are more stretched than the average family budget but what can be done? There is no silver bullet and change does ultimately need to come from above but there are things that we can do now, to ensure that the care industry has a firm foundation in which to build from.

Keeping people in their homes for longer

Our view is that people should be given the tools they need to stay where makes them happiest and in turn gives them the best life possible. For some that might be a care home, but for many as the old saying goes, ‘home is where the heart is’. Home is where we should always feel the safest, have the fondest memories and want to stay. Citizens should be helped to live as long they can, where they want to.

In addition to the personal, the professional can also see the practical benefit of keeping people in their home for longer. According to not for profit website, Paying for Care, the average cost of a residential care home in the UK in 2017/18 was £32,344 a year. This rose to more than £44,000 per year when nursing care was included.

These fees really bring to life the cost of care. You then flip this around and look at simple adaptations for an elderly person’s house coming in at less than £5,000 (for example) and you see the practical return on investment. Even if these adaptations keep that individual out of care for only a year, you will save more than £27,000 and have a home that is adapted for future use.

Homes that are fit for purpose

The world needs to acknowledge that whilst we are living longer (something that should be celebrated), the quality of life we desire needs to match this increase in lifespan. By adapting homes and utilising technology, such as those seen in China, we can improve the quality of life for those in retirement.

This was another key theme that was discussed during the conference. There was a shared acknowledgement that this was key as around 38% of carers are not trained in care. They are unpaid carers who, in many cases have left work early to look after elderly relatives. A bi-product of this having a greater impact to the economy as employers see some of their most talented workers suddenly leaving.

By looking at short term needs and keeping people in their homes for longer, we create a more sustainable system. We keep the economy growing, by keeping them in work for longer and improving the mental health and wellbeing of those in need of care. Technology combined with multi-agency working and changes in working practice can help to keep people in their homes for longer.

Growing trend for refocus/transformation

The ADASS Spring Conference and the new President ADASS Julie Ogley, echoed the feeling we have seen increasingly in the sector. The ethos that although good progress was being made in social care, the traditional models had reached their sell by date. However, we need to acknowledge that in transforming, we should not lose what is strong, we need to value our workforce and put those with lived experience at the heart of redesigning the future.

Local elections - Is political change on the horizon?

Whilst the results are still being declared, the early results suggest that everyone is fed up with Brexit and the main parties. They are fed up with the deadlock and want change. The early results showing more than 500 seats lost between both the Conservatives and Labour. Each party suffering big loses, with the former losing the majority of the seats. It is a clear shot across the bow for the established Westminster elite.

Whilst the early results are not definitive, they are a sign of the general feeling in the country that this Brexit delay has gone on for long enough. We should not be playing games with people’s lives. As an economic superpower we can no longer continue in ignorance. We need to acknowledge that across the board, frontline services are dangerously underfunded.

Social care, education, health and the police are consistently given cash injections that keep them going but nothing really changes. They are still underfunded and required to do more with less. This has not changed in years and whilst long term funding plans have been promised, they have been greatly delayed and or not arrived. The Green Paper is a primary example of this.   

Conclusion

Organisations such as ADASS are not only important, they are essential. They promote discussions that can generate solutions and what we need right now is ideas, thoughts on how we can solve the problems laid out in front of us. We should not be waiting for the government to finalise their Brexit deal, we should be looking to solve the problems associated with social care ourselves.

Through discussion change can emerge. The problems of tomorrow can be solved today, if we all sit down and talk through them. If there was ever a time in history when change is required, it is today. Right here and now, we are at a tipping point with social care standing at the edge of a knife, stray but a little and we will fall, to the ruin of all.

Technology can help to improve people’s lives to keep them in their homes for longer. We need the government to realise the importance of technology beyond the NHS, in terms of cost savings and satisfaction of those in receipt of care. 2019 is a key year and we need to look at the future and stop burying our heads in the sand.