‘Getting angry with government over care cuts would undermine our influence’ – Adass chief

Association of Directors of Adult Social Services president David Pearson responds to criticism that he should be using broadcast interviews to attack the government over care cuts

Credit: Rex/Monkey Business Images

By David Pearson

In a piece last week for Community Care, Blair McPherson took Adass broadly, and me personally, to task for not having pursued the interests of social care and the people whom we help sufficiently passionately. He particularly singles out an interview which I gave on BBC Breakfast, on 8 January, when I was asked for my views on the current crisis within accident and emergency departments.

At that time I was in the middle of negotiations designed to secure further funding for social care services to address these pressures. This money – £25m until the end of the financial year for the most hard-pressed areas – was announced yesterday. Given the intensity and complexities of those discussions I think I would have been perfectly justified in not taking part in the BBC Breakfast programme.

However, I did. Blair thinks I should have been angrier, and asks us to question whether Adass should be taking a much tougher line in public with government, rather than working behind the scenes to influence it. He is entitled to his opinion. But others who listened to the interview (readers can judge for themselves below) have said that it is one of my better interviews. No – you really can’t please all of the people all of the time!

David Pearson on BBC Breakfast

Public confusion

There had been a good deal of confusion in the public mind about the causes of a deterioration in waiting times in A&E departments, and some anger that social care was being unfairly blamed for delayed transfers of care from hospital, which appeared to be increasingly seen as the sole cause of the problem.

I had a responsibility to put this right, firstly because I know what a fantastic job social care staff have been doing up and down the country in the face of unprecedented levels of referrals and the need to arrange care and support for people who need it on leaving hospital. And secondly, because while we are not the cause, we are part of the solution, and investing in social care has to be part of this solution. As Blair kindly acknowledges, I have repeatedly asserted that it makes no sense to protect the health service budgets and pledge it additional funding while continuing to cut social care.

Last July, our annual budget survey revealed that councils had made savings of £3.53bn in adult social care budgets since 2010-11 in response to central government cuts to local authorities.

In many of the more than 50 radio and TV interviews I have done as president I have continually made the point that this is unsustainable and highlighted the impact on people with disability or illness who need social care. Having started off as a social worker in 1982 and spent the past ten years as a director, I have no doubt about the huge contribution that social care can make to transforming people’s lives to help ensure independence, choice and control.

The role of Adass is to be a leader of our sector. This means we need to do whatever we can to inform, influence and shape government policy and public opinion; support the implementation of government policy when it is set, and provide support to directors, senior colleagues and local authorities in leading social care with partners, providers, service users and carers in the best way that we can.

We are not a political organisation or a union, but a charity with these objectives. Our contribution is to do this using the best evidence we can to shine a light on the issues we face and the solutions.

No point in anger

There is no point being invited onto national radio or television and `getting angry’. This will always undermine the power of the points we wish to make, because we want people to listen and understand. I do not think that the public as a rule listen to points made in anger or trust in what an angry person is saying.

Being president of Adass is a privilege. I care deeply about the future – not of social care, but of what I know it can do for people’s lives. I have made and will continue to make the point during the rest of my presidency that the key issue in all this for the country is how much the fifth richest nation in the world prioritises services to help people meet essential needs and live good lives. I do not think austerity is the issue alone, but priorities. As directors we have a responsibility to use the money we do have in the best way possible.

Equally it is important that governments plan for the increasing numbers of people who need care and support and recognise that social care will need to have a larger slice of the national cake. It is, after all, only 2% of our expenditure as a nation. Relatively minor increases can make a major difference.

Things are not going to change because someone gets angry on radio or does not work with the government of the day. Our contribution to the development of the Care Act, in main thrust and detail, has been considerable and I am confident that the final legislation is all the better for our seasoned input.

We have done a lot of work this year to make sure that there is a greater understanding of the contribution of social care and to argue for more investment in the interests of people who use services. It would be discourteous, impolitic and indiscreet to go into precise details. But I hope Blair and Community Care readers will take on trust my assertion that those arguments have demonstrably borne fruit, as the money announced

Changing the media narrative

Meanwhile, a media story has been turned: what began as a simple story of A&E departments awash with people failed by social services has become a story about those cuts in social care, the interplay between health and social care and the importance social care services are to the wider health system alongside which we operate.

The way in which change really happens is for there to be a wide coalition of people and organisations who can influence the public and politicians by explaining the important contribution of social care. We need a `movement’ of people who will make the case in the best way they can.

We are all leaders in this. We can all, as citizens, talk to our local parliamentary candidates as we approach a general election, and discuss the issues with our friends and families. Also, social care pundits can exercise some true leadership, perhaps, by advocating in their articles the best approaches to delivering the social care services that we can all be proud of.

David Pearson is president of Adass, 2014-15, and corporate director, adult social care, health and public protection, at Nottinghamshire Council. (Photo credit: Neil O’Connor). The sound clip above works on the following browsers: Safari 6, Chrome 35, Firefox 28 and Internet Explorer 10.

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10 Responses to ‘Getting angry with government over care cuts would undermine our influence’ – Adass chief

  1. Charles Huddleston January 22, 2015 at 10:59 am #

    There are no cuts in social care that do not impact elsewhere, with higher fiscal and social cost.

    Anyone who speaks of “savings” does not understand the term

  2. Glenys Turner January 22, 2015 at 11:06 am #

    Fine but the general public need to know more about the cuts and how they have affected services. Their reply is always….we give them the money it’s up tho them how they spend it!…. This needs challanging. A diminished general budget will obviously require less money to be spent accross the whole of the council and with many needy areas, this will be at the expense of services, staff and resources. The effect on social care is not being spelt out clearly enough and it is the front line staff, a reducing group because of the cuts, who are having to tell vulnerable people that they cannot have the care they need. The time to get political has come and is long overdue. Save our social care services as well as the NHS. Make us as higher profile to the public as is the NHS. Please. .

  3. Mike Sanderson January 22, 2015 at 11:55 am #

    Patronising and pathetic. Who are you supposed to be representing? Anyone who has worked in Community care can bear witness to the fact that these cutbacks in public service funds are exposing vulnerable people to risk of harm,abuse, neglect – and for some even death. i had to listen to a manager inform her team that due to shortages of care beds in the local community and the demands from NHS to discharge “we need four old people to die (in care)” this weekend. We had already moved the bar some time before to critical need only – people would only get considfered for resource if they were ‘life threatening RISK; not NEED. This was before the government’s Friedmanesk social engineering/policy of Austerity was rolled out. When you are already meeting only lifethreatening risk and the means to meet this is cut back – guess what – people die. So community care has become an oppressive practice whereby people’s risk/needs are expedited to critical or even death. Those agents of austerity in their ivory towers need to reconsider their ethics and motives and treat those of us on the ground with a bit more respect as intelligent human beings; so please, spare me from the dogma and peddle your propaganda elsewhere.

  4. G Hall January 22, 2015 at 5:02 pm #

    One of the points made was that the other people who were interviewed were not hesitant about identifying blame and castigating the gov’t. They were also in situations of trying to achieve more funding. You present the fact that gov’t have provided £25m to a proportion of local authorities which they need to spend by March as a victory for the consensus “behind the scenes” negotiation. I am not in your position and I am reluctant to criticise as we can hardly improve social cares position by fighting between ourselves; however, it would be very naïve to see this pitiful sum (especially against the back ground of the cuts that have already happened) as anything other than a pre election tactical move.

    Your involvement in the “negotiations” in fact gives an air of legitimacy to the action. I assume that you do not really think that this £25m will solve anything?

    If your view is that crumbs from the table are better than nothing at all I can understand that point of view but I would not want you representing me as a social worker in Social care and the idea that getting “angry” in such circumstances is not helpful makes me despair (and angry). Maybe we should be telling our clients not to bother getting angry because we have these expert behind the scenes negotiators who are going to make everything better.

  5. Neil Clarke January 23, 2015 at 11:23 am #

    The interview was interesting. There was not a lot wrong with the words David used – but the passion shown by the doctor on the same programme had, for me, far more impact. When 80% of social workers in the recent survey reported high levels of stress a diplomatic response from our leaders may not be what we are looking for? The issue in hospitals is really quite simple – the government/NHS have continued to reduce hospital beds despite increasing patient populations – and have failed to make sufficient community health resources available to deal with the consequences. We should be shouting about this – particularly when the myth of bed blocking by social workers raises it’s head. Social Services are too often the meek scapegoats for the policy failures of the NHS.

  6. Ruth Cartwright January 24, 2015 at 9:39 pm #

    I think David Pearson should be angry on behalf of of hard working social workers and social care staff about the way social care budgets have been cut for decades (not just since the recession). This is not the same as him having a rant in an interview which would not be appropriate, but his measured words should be fuelled by anger and passion. For too long our senior managers have seemed to accept the Govt propaganda that they are running wasteful departments which do little good for anyone and deserve to be cut, and it is the social workers who have to inform service users who anyone could see need a service to prevent future distress and deterioration, that they are no longer eligible. I suggest David Pearson shadow a member of staff and sees the effects the cuts are having on real people’s lives – then his anger may prompt him to speak truth to power rather than colluding with the erosion of social care across the country.

  7. Ruth Cartwright January 25, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

    I think David Pearson should be angry on behalf of hard working social workers and social care staff about the way social care budgets have been cut for decades (not just since the recession). This is not the same as him having a rant in an interview which would not be appropriate, but his measured words should be fuelled by anger and passion. For too long our senior managers have seemed to accept the Govt propaganda that they are running wasteful departments which do little good for anyone and deserve to be cut, and it is the social workers who have to inform service users who anyone could see need a service to prevent future distress and deterioration, that they are no longer eligible. I suggest David Pearson shadow a member of staff and sees the effects the cuts are having on real people’s lives – then his anger may prompt him to speak truth to power rather than colluding with the erosion of social care across the country.

  8. julian kendall January 26, 2015 at 11:00 pm #

    Its about time honesty jumped right into the forefront of all this Public Sector hypocrisy. The truth is that the home care and care home sector have been annihilated by central government cutting back payments to the local authorities and local authorities passing them on to the private sector instead of cutting the excessive fat within. Recently we had a safeguarding where eight council workers attended the meeting. Half way through the meeting the case was thrown out.
    If the public sector do not climb down off their high horse and properly correct care home funding then it is going to get very messy. Their are so many care home companies who have been royally shafted by local authorities. It is a massive scandal. When not if this finally gets out, heads should roll, but guaranteed they won’t.

  9. jim kennie January 26, 2015 at 11:08 pm #

    Their is a war going on out there between private and public sector. Its comparable to David and Goliath. I really believe that I am holding the stone that is going to slay Goliath ( the super powerful monopoly, obsessed public sector). I will launch it at the right moment, watch Goliath fall, and then see the private sector rise up and deliver a superb service that is properly funded.
    Are you kidding?? Of course I am. This is not about good services, its about the public sector using its unlimited power to belittle the private sector and tread it into the ground. Idiots.

  10. jim kennie January 26, 2015 at 11:26 pm #

    I so want out of this totally messed up sector. Why oh why did I ever invest. The private sector has been seriously abused.