Ivan Lewis charts future government social care policy

After six months bedding in as care services minister and listening to professionals’ concerns, Ivan Lewis (pictured) sets out the issues he wants to tackle

Before entering parliament I spent all my working life in the social care voluntary sector, and four years in the early 1990s chairing Bury Council’s social services committee. My experience in the sector shaped my commitment to social justice and was a prime motivation for my entry into politics. Having spent my first six months listening and learning as a minister, I see several key challenges.

First, we need a new narrative, placing social care where it belongs, at the heart of a civilised and successful society. As one disabled person put it to me recently: “I want a life not a service”. Twenty-first century social care has to be about ensuring people who use services – and their carers – have the necessary power and control to shape the services they need.

It is important I am clear about my priorities. I want to work on our bid for the comprehensive spending review, securing the best possible deal for social care within the constraints of a tight settlement. I also want to assert the status of social care in the Department of Health and across government. If we are to move resources from the acute to the community sector, we need to build on advances in recent years, creating a truly joined-up approach at a local level.

The local government white paper and local area agreements provide major opportunities for local government and the NHS to create a partnership which brings together the full range of community services and the NHS to achieve a truly integrated approach.

Working with stakeholders
To help social care professionals maximise the opportunities of this joint working I want to work with stakeholders and higher education to establish research centres of excellence. To use a much-used phrase, we need a workforce that is “fit for purpose”. Individual budgets, direct payments and In Control are not experiments – they are the ingredients central to a modern social care system. I intend to bring them together under a new people power banner to ensure cohesion, tackle any barriers to their progress and create a strong sense of mission. I also intend to explore the role of advocacy and brokerage in supporting people to take more control.

Later in the autumn I will lead a new national campaign to place dignity at the heart of all services for older people. I will host three events to bring together care providers and older people’s champions to discuss how best to weave dignity in care into the fabric of services. Following the Cornwall inquiry, I am establishing a cross-government group to re-energise the Valuing People agenda and ensure adults with learning difficulties have equal access to health care. I am also determined to tackle the worrying growth of adults with learning difficulties being placed in private hospitals.

I am overseeing the reform of the community equipment service which is so essential to the quality of disabled people’s lives. And I will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure the white paper commitments to carers are delivered.

Vibrant third sector
I am working closely with Beverley Hughes, children’s minister, to ensure continued progress on child and adolescent mental health services and to safeguard health’s contribution to early years intervention, the development of children’s centres and a step-change approach to the needs of looked-after children. Other priorities are the transition from childhood to adult life for young people with disabilities and highquality, diverse maternity services.

A vibrant, innovative third sector has a key role to play in the development of a modern social care system. We are creating a new joint national task force bringing together voluntary sector and social enterprise stakeholders. The Department of Health’s new social enterprise unit will be identifying and investing in cutting edge social enterprise pathways projects.

● If you have any thoughts or ideas you would like to share with me, please do e-mail me on ivan.lewis@dh.gsi.gov.uk

This article appeared in the 19-25 October issue of the magazine, on page 32, under the headline, My agenda for change

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