Social care could learn from private sector about customers, says Byrne

The care services minister has said his private sector background
could help social care embrace the idea of the customer.
In an interview with Community Care, Liam Byrne repeated the
government’s key claim that the sector needed to become more
responsive to users – and said his experience building a successful
e-government business could help.

He said: “You can’t build a company up from nothing unless you are
attuned to people’s needs. That’s going to be crucial in shaping
the future of social care.”

He had earlier used a speech at the conference to challenge social
workers’ “reluctance to give up power to users”, saying this was
one reason for the low take-up of direct payments.

But he then turned the traditional post-speech question and answer
session on its head, by asking questions of his questioners about
issues including the Valuing People white paper.

He promised to meet learning difficulties campaigner Richard West,
who was a chair of the Learning Disability Taskforce ethnicity
subgroup. West had lambasted the minister for the quality of
services for ethnic minority users.

West told Byrne: “It’s disgraceful how services have been set up
for black and Asian people with learning difficulties. The
government has a long way to go.”

Byrne also pleased many in the audience by going further than his
predecessor Stephen Ladyman in promising to argue for more money in
next year’s spending review to deliver the adult green paper,
putting paid to the policy paper’s contentious claim that its
provisions are cost neutral.

He said: “That’s what the Department of Health will be arguing
about with the Treasury in the next spending review. There are all
sorts of cost pressures.”

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