We all want to believe we are part of 'a caring society'. One where, no matter whether we are disabled, frail or in need of care, there are systems in place to help us.
Where help will be provided in a personalised way with compassion, skill and love. And where we all understand the deal – our rights and responsibilities as citizens, how the system will be paid for, and what we can expect when we are in need.
A caring society is much more than having access to efficient services and institutions. It's about access to a system which has the very deepest sense of care at its heart and that reflects what is good and civilised about our world.
Foresight and action
But I believe we are drifting towards a future where these ideals are gradually becoming damaged, and if we are not careful, possibly damaged beyond repair. The basic societal tests are not being met. Few of us understand how the social care system works and what we can expect.
As a society, and therefore individually, we cannot seem to grasp the major developments of our age – such as the nature of work, social isolation, ageing, the prevalence of chronic conditions and the advent of a digital epoch. That our government-provided and funded social care system was built for a post-war generation and not the 21st Century only adds to this confusion.
Change in social care has often been about how government uses policy and levers and how the system subsequently responds. Recently, personalisation and independent sector commissioning are prime examples. In both cases, the system is living with some successes and also significant unwanted outcomes.
We also know that social care leaders, in local authorities and elsewhere, are facing the limitations and imperatives of the here and now. Managing budgets from one month to the next and rationing services is a function of rising demand and austerity, but it will not achieve the ideals to which we aspire. We cannot manage our way out of these constraints.
Passion and imperative
It is this context which gives me and others here the passion to create and shape a conversation about a caring society. This will be a different conversation about the future, based on a positive framing of strengths. We will invite people to think hard about how we transform the system together and shift from the constraints of what we are limited in (such as money), to what we are abundant in (such as time, wisdom, kindness and ingenuity).
Thankfully and excitingly, we are not alone. Often accelerated by new technology and the new thinking this inspires, many people and organisations are experimenting with new forms of care, some at a very micro level, others on a larger scale. The breadth of this experimentation tells us there is a new paradigm for social care struggling to surface, one which we have to lift up.
Our founding belief is that a caring society can be built by confident local actors in the system, with government acting only to enable. It is time to put the power into the hands of local areas turning our current system for top-down change on its head.
A caring society is a programme to help bring innovative thinking and practice together to establish a new model for how we care for each other. It is a project that is balanced across all sectors and all stakeholders, from the smallest community project to the largest investors in new assets.
We have designed the programme around the people that participate in it. Through your involvement you will hear new voices, perspectives and challenges that accelerate your learning and give you the energy to play your part in building a caring society. We start with a lack of prejudice, but an abundance of ideas and hope. So the definition of a caring society is up for grabs, in a journey of mutual learning, support and, yes, care for each other.
If you wish to be involved with our caring society project, please contact Alex Khaldi, or join the conversation on Twitter at #ACaringSociety.
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