Sixty Second Interview with Stephen Burke
By Clare Jerrom
Stephen Burke last week took up his new role as chief executive of Counsel and Care. He was previously director of the Daycare Trust.
What made you want to move from working in the childcare sector to the older people’s sector?
I was looking for a new challenge. Daycare Trust helped move childcare right up the agenda and the government published its 10-year childcare strategy last year. So the time felt right to move on and I believe there are now real opportunities to make a big difference for older people.
What are your main priorities in your new role?
My top priority is to secure the best care and support for all older people. Counsel and Care’s advice service provides valuable help to older people and their relatives and carers; together with our research projects, this direct contact with older people means we know about their concerns. We need much greater awareness of the issues facing older people and we need a vision of a better society for older people that would benefit us all. Achieving that awareness and vision in the lifetime of the next government is my challenge.
My other key priority is generating the income to develop Counsel and Care’s services for older people and ensure that the public and policymakers know about our work.
What are your thoughts on the green paper for adult social care?
We welcome the key themes of the green paper and its aims to make social care more centred round the needs of older people, giving them control and independence. The jury is still out as to how this will be achieved and we look forward to discussing with the next government how to turn the green paper into action. That will of course require significant extra resources from both the 2006 and the 2008 spending reviews.
Do you think the green paper is unduly biased towards independent living and if so, could this be to the detriment of older people who want and need residential care?
Choice is the key word. We need appropriate accommodation for older people which can adapt to their changing needs. Care in people’s own home, sheltered housing, extra-care housing and care homes all have a part to play and all need investment.
Do you believe direct payments are a good thing for older people?
Extending direct payments for social care will enable older people to have more influence over the care they receive and the way it is organised. The challenge is how to make this happen in a simple, non-bureaucratic way.
How do you plan to increase the take up of direct payments among this group or will the plan for individualised budgets get round any problems and increase their popularity?
Counsel and Care looks forward to discussing how the plans for individualised budgets will work. Callers to our advice service often comment on the difficulties they face currently with direct payments. We are producing a guide for older people later this year on how they can ‘keep control’ of their care and stay independent by making direct payments work for them.
What do you think about Stephen Ladyman’s comments last month that it would not be compulsory for direct payment users to subject people they employ to criminal records checks?
We believe all carers working with vulnerable adults (and children) should have criminal record checks, alongside other measures and procedures to ensure that risks are minimized.
Do you think the green paper can be delivered within existing spending limits?
No. That’s why the forthcoming spending reviews will be important. I hope the next government will listen to the outcome of the forthcoming Wanless review.
Should the government relax eligibility criteria for adult services to enable a shift to preventive care?
The experiences of older people and their carers gained through Counsel and Care’s advice service show that the Fair Access to Care Services guidance, which aims to ensure quality of life needs as well as high level needs of older people are addressed and met, is inconsistent.
There are many successful examples of how local schemes have responded positively to the development of life-enhancing, low level interventions around the country. But they are piecemeal and poorly funded. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation-funded inquiry into ‘That bit of help’ which will report later this year should show how important this support is to older people and how to make these services available to all older people.
Do you support free personal care for older people?
I’m looking forward to the Wanless review of the funding and financing of social care. This presents a real opportunity to consider the best way to create a fair and properly resourced system which meets the needs of all older people, now and in the long-term. Proper resourcing of care for older people is a key factor in tackling the ageism in our society.