The majority of social care professionals are unaware of the government’s policy agenda for adult services, despite it commanding the support of senior managers, writes Mithran Samuel.
An exclusive Community Care survey of almost 1,000 staff finds 56 per cent are unaware of the planned white paper on health and social care, announced on 21 July.
The proposal has the support of the Association of Directors of Social Services, but the findings suggest its potential benefits have not filtered down to frontline staff.
The respondents were mainly social workers and frontline managers, with two-thirds working in older people’s services, learning difficulties, mental health and physical disabilities, and a similar number employed by councils.
56 per cent are unaware of the white paper
85 per cent believe it is a good or excellent idea
58 per cent believe it will diminish the role of social care
59 per cent back a stand-alone white paper for social care
72 per cent believe health professionals do not understand social work’s core values
John Dixon, co-chair of the Association of Directors of Social Services, was not surprised by the level of awareness. He said: “The profile of the white paper has been lower than the [adult] green paper. We didn’t know there would be one until 21 July.”
Attitudes to the joint white paper among staff are ambivalent, reflecting the ongoing suspicion of health within social care and the assumption the government places greater value on the NHS.
While 85 per cent feel it is a good idea, almost two-fifths believe it will diminish the role of social care and a similar figure say the sector should have a stand-alone white paper.
And although 86 per cent say their relationship with health professionals is good or excellent, 72 per cent say health counterparts do not understand social work’s core values.
Eighty eight per cent say the NHS treats people as patients rather than looking at their individual needs, while 92 per cent say the government values health staff above social care workers.
|Johnston: Government should not
"railroad" through the changes
Ian Johnston, director of the British Association of Social Workers, said: “A lot of people have mixed feelings. You don’t want to stand away from something that gives people the services they need. But you’ve got to be cautious of these sorts of changes because of the power held by our health counterparts.”
Johnston warned the government not to “railroad” through the changes and to involve staff in their development.
Dixon said he understood the concerns, adding: “There are big cultural differences [between social care and health]. But what we have to bring to the table is extremely important. I don’t think the NHS can afford to have a medical model of treatment.”
The survey also shows that, despite the significant increase in joint working over the past few years, the majority of staff do not work in joint teams with health professionals.