Alex Fox: Allow service users to take ordinary risks

Will the future social care workforce be "professionalised": rigorously CRB-checked and highly qualified?

Will the future social care workforce be “professionalised”: rigorously CRB-checked and highly qualified? Or will it be made up of ordinary people: the unqualified neighbour recruited by the personal budget holder? Perhaps we will have a two-tier workforce of expensive professionals, reserved for crises and the most complex needs, while most people buy their own support in an increasingly grey economy.

Personal budgets are certainly bringing new people into social care. There are growing numbers of micro-enterprises set up in response to the needs of one or two local individuals. Some of those running these enterprises will have previously worked for newly-closed day centres or large care organisations before “cutting out the middle man” to sell their services directly. Some will have never worked in social care.

Others run a mainstream business, such as the yoga teacher offering classes in older people’s homes, or the taxi driver specialising in complex transport needs.

To these providers, the rules and jargon seem like barriers. They want to do something specific and uncomplicated to help someone access something others take for granted. Regulatory hurdles can prove insurmountable, meaning one fewer choice on offer to local people.

Inclusion means people accessing services from beyond social care and having friends as well as CRB-checked volunteers. But many also rely on expert assessment to make choices and take risks.

The scrapped vetting and barring system risked vetting people who had ordinary social contact with disabled or older people. So in reducing some risks, the system itself would have created new risks associated with isolation and exclusion. It gave managers and clients little discretion in some settings, leaving huge discrepancies in others. Let’s hope its replacement achieves a better balance: people taking ordinary risks, to live ordinary lives.

This article is published in the 16 September issue of Community Care magazine under the heading Allow clients to take ordinary risks

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