Main aim should be independence

Social services are often unappreciated except by those
vulnerable people – up to 1.5 million at any one time in England
alone – who rely on their help.

But it is unrealistic to plan to continue to deliver care in the
way we have in the past. Changes in population and communities
result in us living longer but we are less likely to be part of a
close-knit family providing support. Communities are more diverse
and services do not always recognise that. Society has higher
expectations and people want greater control over their own lives,
including the management of risk. In future, there will be
competing demands on the workforce available. The challenges can
only be met by reassessing the way social care is delivered.

In March, we published our vision for social services in the
consultation paper Independence, Well-being and Choice, setting out
the priorities for the future. Labour believes social care should
give every individual real options and a proactive, not just a
reactive, service.

The aim should be to help people maintain independence, not
create dependence.

We also understand the frustrations that service users and social
care professionals experience when things do not run smoothly – for
example, when local health and social care services do not work
together as well as they should. Only good integration between the
two can deliver the care people need, when they need it. Labour has
begun to address the problems that exist in the system, but it also
needs good strategic leadership at a local level and to work with a
range of partners.

It may be a cliche, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true: social
care professionals want to help people and the workforce is
critical to delivery. We want to support all staff to move to a
model that supports and promotes the independence of service users
and carers. We are supporting initiatives in improving leadership
and modernising the workforce and we are striving to find ways to
improve the workforce planning arrangements. But we know that
services must be funded sufficiently, which is why social services
will receive more than £3.2bn extra this year, building on
previous increases. Conservative and Liberal Democrat plans would
put this at risk.

Stephen Ladyman is community care minister

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