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Creating a caring society – the start of the debate

Alex Khaldi Alex Khaldi

Creating a truly caring society raises many complex political, economic and personal challenges.

Yet, too often the debate gets stuck on talking about money and how to manage a system that does not work rather than thinking about how to do things differently. To help move the discussion forward Grant Thornton, with Jericho Chambers, brought together a range of people with direct experience of social care provision to explore how we can drive real change and create a new model for how we care for each other.

The round table was the first step in our a caring society programme which aims to provide the space and support to develop and share the ideas and energy needed to transform adult social care.

For me, the debate around financing the future of social care and the government’s role shouldn’t crowd out imagination, reflection and critique and moving forward in a way that allows us to grasp the opportunities for the future of a growing market.

The nature of care and the role of the state

The starting point is to develop an understanding of what good care is and how then to support the relationships and capabilities that are needed to provide it. Part of that will be about technology and innovation; how they can be used to do things differently rather than propping up existing ways of doing things. But it is also about how we can use our own personal and community networks, skills and talents to support each other. This means addressing the fundamental question of whether the state can provide, or facilitate, the love that is at the heart of caring relationships.

The participants in the discussion highlighted that some of this work is already happening. In Camden frontline social services staff are empowered to have conversations with individuals rather than doing a traditional assessment. This enables them to understand the person’s connections and relationships. Those can then be used by the social worker to leverage support from the community whether that’s getting someone to pick them up from hospital or facilitating friendships across generations. The stories that we’re starting to hear are about conversations where, it turns out the biggest connection for someone is their mosque, so the social worker rings up the imam who brings the community around that individual. In Bexley, the council is changing its role so that it becomes more of an introductory agency which helps to develop real relationships between the carers and the individual. The lessons from these initiatives are very clear, this isn’t about systems and processes but a matter of culture, belief and values.

“Older people don’t want to only spend time with other older people, they want to be part of society. We have to deliver the communities that allow that.” - Georgia Gould, Leader of Camden Council

There were many examples of good care being provided both by professionals and informal carers but an absence of support for those carers and a risk of burnout is a real and growing problem. There is a critical need to provide effective respite to informal carers and to create the right environment to empower paid carers to provide more personal and compassionate care.

Getting the balance between trust and risk

There was a clear recognition from across the sector that traditional health and social care systems are not set up to deal with today’s demands and that change is being held back by the risk averse nature of those systems. Approaches which truly personalise care and empower people will only happen if there is a culture change which enables more risk taking.

“A future model of social care needs to answer the question: how does the state be an enabler to allow those real relationships of care to flourish.” - Stuart Rowbotham, Director of Adult Social Services, Bexley Council

In Bexley, the policy is to move to trusting individuals in the voluntary sector and people who are important to the person needing care to make their own decisions and use available community resources. For this to succeed it will require trust and a willingness to move away from simply complying with the lowest common denominator requirements of the CQC and OFSTED. A number of participants in the discussion outlined the difficulties they were having in getting people to take risks and for professionals to let go and look at what will really benefit the individual rather than imposing a standard care package that they may not want.

The round table brought many perspectives but there was a strong agreement about the need to do things differently to create and support a caring society. Grant Thornton will now take forward further discussions around three particular themes:

1 The need to improve our understanding of what we mean by care, and how we measure it

2 The role of the state and how it can share power with individuals and communities to facilitate more caring relationships

3 The best way bring about progress, whether what is needed is a dramatic big bang or slower incremental change, and how we do that in a caring way

If you wish to be involved with our caring society project, please contact Alex Khaldi, or join the conversation on Twitter at #ACaringSociety

This article was written by Neal Lawson and Alex Khaldi.

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Why we need to create a caring society Find out more
Methodology A programme to build a caring society Find out more

A caring society

Discover more about our programme to build a caring society  - bringing together a community who are committed to shaping the future of adult social care

Find out more