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Social care White Paper: Best of the blogs

Hands on keyboard - male

If you really must leave the Adult Care Blog for social care White Paper news and views, or anything else for that matter, here are a few blogs that are well worth reading:

The (pessimistic) social worker view

Here she is on the government’s plans to develop community-based social work – potentially through independent social enterprises contracted by local authorities:

I like the idea of more community work but am worried at what cost it may come in terms of privatising delivery of service and moving responsibilities for provision away from a democratic mandate.

Hers is a generally pessimistic view of the White Paper and its implications for frontline practitioners’ ability to improve the lives of the people they work with: 

While there was mention of personal budgets for residential care, I saw nothing about individual service funds and developing ways of promoting choice for those who are excluded from communities and who may lack capacity…I saw a lot of gaps, not least, the massive funding gap.

Where was the advocacy?

If you’ve been on Twitter of late you will have seen many people praising this post from Martin Coyle, interim chief executive of Action on Advocacy, on the absence of advocacy in the White Paper (just a single reference over 65 pages – page 55 if you’re interested).

While the single reference refers to advocacy services supporting people who lack capacity or who have no one to speak up for them, Coyle writes:

Most advocacy is for people who have capacity. Overwhelmingly so. It’s not the lack of capacity to make a specific decision that leads people to need advocacy. Rather it’s the experience of not being listened to, not being included in decision making, being discriminated against, being abused, being in receipt of poor or inappropriate services or not being able to access services (including basic health care) at all.

Glass half-full

While the sector is clearly aghast at the lack of action to tackle under-funding of social care, some leaders are accentuating the positive in the White Paper, an attitude exemplified by a pair of blogs, from Shared Lives Plus chief executive Alex Fox and In Control head of operations Martin Routledge.

Fox is angry about the lack of money. But he sees in the White Paper the opportunity to end social care’s crisis-focus and invest in prevention through measures such as through the duty on councils to provide preventive services and the promotion of community development-based social work:

Behind the headlines, there is a vision for care and support taking shape which we should feel much more excited about. It still needs a lot of work  - and even more courage – but it’s worth suspending cynicism for, because it’s never been more needed and the appetite for it is real.

Routledge is similarly optimistic about the impetus the White Paper gives to personal budgets, for instance through the planned legislation to ensure everyone eligible for council support receives a personal budget, which he says should bring to an end arguments over whether personal budgets benefit certain groups and not others. More generally, he says:

What strikes me strongly about the White Paper and draft bill is that there is a great deal of real possibility and also much to be played for.

Both Fox and Routledge see room for improvement: Fox wants all people with some care and support need to have the right to a care and support plan, not just those eligible for council funding; Routledge wants to see action to ensure personal budgets provide genuine choice and control.

You can’t forget the funding 

The mirror image of Fox and Routledge’s perspective comes from Claudia Wood, deputy director at the think-tank Demos and a well-respected and long-standing social care researcher and writer, in a column for Public Finance magazine

She praises many of the same things they do – the promotion of community development and informal networks, closer integration with health – as well as measures to set a minimum entitlement to care around the country, ending the postcode lottery. But she concludes:

The White Paper risks being a shining vision of what could have been, if only we’d sorted out the money.

And the result of this failure to sort out the money?

We will see the gradual deterioration of hundreds of thousands of lives – disabled and older people, their families, carers, care staff and social workers.

Where do you stand?

Are you with the optimists or the pessimists, those for whom the failure to sort out funding was a disappointment or those for whom it was a disaster? Do let us know.
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Mithran Samuel

About Mithran Samuel

Mithran Samuel is adults' editor at Community Care.

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2 Responses to Social care White Paper: Best of the blogs

  1. Chris Moon-Willems 12 April , 2013 at 3:19 am #

    I was an optimist for most of my long career with Adult Services and a huge fan of personal budgets. Over the past few years I have seen lots of rhetoric applauding personal budgets and LAs including my own, boasting that they offer Personal budgets to everyone. This is true. They do. But for the vast majority of older people on Council Managed Budgets, their life is no different to before. Without a significant increase in funding very soon, Councils will not be able to afford to give older people real choice and without a U turn in commissioner’s behaviour they will still hang on tenaciously to control and remain closed to exploring alternatives to direct payments for those people who are unable to manage them, such as individual service funds. So unfortunately I have to take a pessimistic view. However if my faith in the system hadn’t been destroyed and I believed that the proposals would be implemented in the spirit that they were written then my optimism would return. Alas I think that is as unlikely as the government adequately funding social care for older people before the next election.

  2. Ann Brebner 12 April , 2013 at 3:19 am #

    The opportunity to end social care’s crisis-focus and invest in prevention through measures such as through the duty on councils to provide preventive services and the promotion of community development-based social work is welcome but how will this be implemented? Councils are already failing the vulnerable by poroviding cheap and inadequate care where “CARE ” appointments last for ten minutes in some cases, its scanduluous!