ADASS president: ‘Adult social care reform must be a national priority’

The need for a cross-party consensus to solve problems in adult social care is growing, says Margaret Willcox

Margaret Willcox
Margaret Willcox, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services

By Margaret Willcox

With an eventful – but ultimately disappointing – Conservative Party conference out of the way, all eyes now rest on the chancellor’s autumn budget and the consultation on the future of adult social care that the government has promised.

We hoped that Theresa May would use her key speech at the conference to announce further measures to help alleviate the significant and continuing pressures on adult social care, building on the welcome but short-term £2 billion of extra money announced in the spring. However, with apparently no new plans forthcoming, the sector will continue to highlight existing and emerging challenges it faces at the National Children and Adult Services Conference (NCASC) in Bournemouth this week (11-13 October).

While councils continue to wait for – and call to bring forward – the government’s promised consultation on the future funding of adult social care, important issues based on efficiency, best practice and innovation will be discussed at NCASC as local authorities lead the way in self-improvement to help older and disabled people and their families in need of good quality, reliable and personal care.

These include: creating carer-friendly communities; managing the impact of children’s services pressures on adult care services; the employment of people with care and support needs; tackling mental health, loneliness and modern slavery; prevention and safeguarding work; integrated commissioning to support the sustainability of the care market; transforming care through technology; and housing, health and care integration.

However, the ability of councils to address many of these issues depends on the long-term reform, both of funding and delivery, of adult social care, to alleviate the impacts on those who matter most – older and disabled people and their families and carers.

Without sustainable funding, the extra costs arising from the welcome national living wage – and the ongoing debate over back-pay for sleep-in shifts – rising levels of need and growing funding and workforce issues experienced by providers, will not be met.

Constructive relationship with NHS

Impacts on the NHS, which present a seasonal challenge as winter pressures approach, cannot be ignored. With councils being fined for delayed transfers of care, the importance of a mature and constructive relationship with our NHS partners has never been more important – we face a shared challenge of demand outstripping resources and the need to develop a much more joined-up approach that focuses on prevention and reducing the need for admissions to hospitals and long-term care.

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services will continue to work hard with the NHS to reduce delayed transfers of care, recognising that these are but one symptom of the failure of the whole system to offer individuals the right care, in the right place, at the right time.


Many of the operational pressures faced by the NHS and local government are underpinned by deeper-seated challenges that demand the wider transformation of the health and care system. This will require the full engagement of local government in sustainability and transformation partnerships. The emergence of accountable care systems creates real opportunities to develop a place-based approach but adult social care and other key local government services, such as public health, must be designed in from the outset.

Despite undeniable challenges, most adult social care services in England are providing people with safe, high quality and compassionate care. That they are doing this in the context of rising demand and inadequate funding is a tribute in itself.”

However, to maintain and improve the quality and reliability of care, adult social care needs to be treated as a national priority, not just for older and disabled people and their increasingly complex needs, but also for working age disabled adults.

Younger disabled people

While it is right that people with savings and property should face protection from catastrophic care costs, the needs of younger disabled people who have never been able to acquire savings or property should also be central to a new funding deal.

Successive white and green papers over the past decades have failed to achieve lasting reform of adult social care, but the need for a cross-party consensus on establishing a sustainable solution to adult social care – which remains at a tipping point – is growing.

The government must now follow through on this in the forthcoming consultation process, which ADASS stands ready to engage in, to help establish a better social care system that is fit for the 21st century.

Margaret Willcox is president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services

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