Health secretary Andrew Lansley has warned that the Dilnot commission’s £1.7bn proposals to reform adult social care funding could prove too costly to implement in full. But we urge the government to act on Dilnot because, far from being promoted, dignity and respect are fast becoming major casualties of the financial cuts.
Dilnot’s recommendations could go a long way towards wiping out the fundamental unfairness of the social care system, by easing the eligibility crisis and allowing more investment in preventive support to stop people becoming dependent on institutional forms of care in the first place.
However, there is much more to Dilnot than a possible solution to the funding crisis.
Under the plans, eligibility for services would be the same everywhere in England and assessments would be portable across local authority boundaries.
What’s more, the commission proposes that the government should develop a new assessment measure with experts in the field. This is a big chance for social workers to help bring assessment in line with the ambitions of the personalisation agenda, by giving people more choice and control over their care and support.
The report asks how any new system could be “focused on helping people meet the outcomes they want to meet”. Rather than persevere with a needs-based style of assessment reminiscent of the Poor Law, this could be an chance for social workers to deliver truly person-centred services.
That, in turn, could release new energy in social workers who work with adults.
Professor Eileen Munro’s review of child protection recommended a style of social work which combined analytical and intuitive skills, and which relied on working directly with people “to understand their experiences, worries, hopes and dreams”. This could mean less central prescription and a greater focus on individual professional judgement. Why should social work with adults be any different?
Professional judgement and building relationships with service users in which they are freed to talk about their wishes for the future are important here too. Social workers would say their goodbyes to the 1990s fetish for care management, as many already have, and return to the role of helping service users overcome obstacles preventing them from living the lives they choose. That’s what most social workers, before the rise of care management, thought the job was about.
Dilnot stresses the importance of information and advice, regardless of whether social care is funded by the state. If dignity and respect are the name of the game, we need social workers, as well as resources, to make them happen.
Corinne May-Chahal and Maurice Bates (pictured) are the interim co-chairs of the College of Social Work
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