Time to stand up for social care

Social services are set for a great transformation of roles and structures, which will incorporate health and education. But where in all this will social care values fit? Janet Snell explains why social care’s empowering approach to service users must be strengthened.

This week Community Care is launching its Stand Up For Social Care campaign, which aims to:Stand up for Social Care 125x125

  •  Ensure social care’s voice is heard loud and clear at a time of massive change.
  •  Raise the profile of social care in the eyes of other professionals, politicians and the public.
  •  Call for adequate resources to enable social care staff to do their job properly.
  •  Circulate and promote examples of good practice that highlight what’s best in social care.

    We believe social care values are as important and relevant today as they have ever been – perhaps more so. As the future is shaped by the health and social care white paper, with the government pledging to press ahead promoting “people power”, social care’s role in empowering and advocating on behalf of service users becomes even more crucial.

    Our Stand Up For Social Care campaign sets out to demonstrate how social care values chime with the white paper’s aims of supporting people to live independently, maximising their strengths and enabling them to play a fuller part in society. We will showcase good practice through examples of projects that put social care values into action and pass our “ACID” test that aims to promote:

  •  Active engagement
  •  Choice and control
  •  Independence and inclusion
  •  Dignity

    All these objectives are set out in the white paper and are in line with the values and traditions of social care and social work. Community Care believes social care professionals are ideally placed to lead the way in the development of the white paper’s vision for a more person-centred health and social care service. But the profession needs to persuade others it has the skills and confidence to step into that role. That is what the Stand Up For Social Care campaign is all about.

    Care services minister Liam Byrne has said his message to social care professionals is “No more Cinderella. You will go to the ball.”

    His point is that although staff working in social care have traditionally lacked the status enjoyed by other caring professions, he believes the new social care register is changing that.

    In its first four years, the General Social Care Council in England has played a part in flying the flag for social care by signing up nearly 80,000 qualified social workers to its register.

    Last October, it began to sign up social work students and it has domiciliary and residential care staff next in its sights. At the same time, moves such as having legal protection for the title of social worker and launching the professional codes of practice have also helped to bind social work together as a profession – as well as binding social care together as a sector (to take its place alongside the longer established health and education sectors).

    And yet, despite these and other initiatives – like the launch of the social work degree – the feeling persists that the profession is lacking in confidence and unsure of where it is going. Almost 2,000 people are expected to attend a conference in Nottingham this week to affirm social care values and discuss the threats that they face. But what exactly are these values and who or what is threatening them?

    Social care values really come down to empowering people to help themselves and fulfil their potential, offering them choice, protecting them from abuse, including them so they can shape the services that affect them, and promoting equality while striving to eradicate inequality and discrimination.

    Social care professionals tend to have a different world view than, say, doctors or nurses, although the latter do espouse choice and empowerment. But nurses won’t usually sort out your benefits or help with your housing problems and, with a few notable exceptions, they tend not to be political animals in the way many social workers are, or were.

    Social care has a radical tradition but does that hold true today? With the “Thatcher generation” now a significant part of the workforce and the political landscape of the UK under New Labour virtually unrecognisable from the period when middle-aged social workers were growing up, where does that leave social care’s radicalism (and its other values come to that)?

    To old radicals these feel like powerless days. But there are signs that social care values and even social care radicalism are far from dead. The refusal of some professionals to comply with orders to separate asylum-seeking children from their parents under section nine of the Asylum and Immigration Act 2004 is one example.

    But perhaps an even brighter glimmer of hope is the whole tone of the new white paper and its shift towards prevention and user-empowerment. Although the words “social care” do not crop up as frequently as “health”, they are in there and, more importantly, ministers at last appear determined to take action to correct the power imbalance that has favoured the health acute sector.

    For the first time, perhaps since 1948, social care has been “invited to the ball”. The Stand Up For Social Care campaign aims to help the profession throw off its rags and grab that invitation with both hands.

    Future of Social Care Values

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