Monday, 2 April 2012

Building Social Care

Social care is full of concepts and the problem with concepts is that there are difficult to get across to the wider population as it is difficult to grasp what something actually means, especially when those espousing the concepts of put different interpretations on what they mean.

Take for instance the Social Care Institute of  Excellence   definition: "Personalisation means thinking about public services and social care in a different way – starting with the person and their individual circumstances rather than the service" 

Compared with the Department of Health version: "every person who receives support, whether provided by statutory services or funded by themselves, will have choice and control over the shape of that support in all care settings" 

Broadly similar but the first takes personalisation as being outside the care service where the latter stresses that personalisation occurs within the care settings.

That is, of course, pure semantics but it serves to illustrate how talking about social care is open to interpretation both by the organisations delivering the message and those listening to it and why listeners may simply switch off if they cannot fully understand the message being delivered.

To add to the general woolliness of social care speak many of the more recent concepts, such as personalisation, are being inserted into a system established 20 odd years ago and may not always be totally compatible without significant change to the system.

To illustrate in more, literally, concrete terms.

Most people agree that personalisation needs to underpin social care (and other public services), it needs to be the foundation on which such services are built. Yet if you can imagine social care as being a house exactly how easy is it to change the foundations without tearing the house down and rebuilding it? But, I hear some people cry, surely personalisation could be used to underpin the subsiding house of social care that is sinking rapidly yet is this a wise move using personalisation to simply prop up a house that is no longer fit for the ever growing family that is needs to accommodate.

We can extend the metaphor to the forthcoming white paper. Will it be an instrument that simply attempts to paper of the cracks in the social care house? One that replaces the odd rotten beam rather than tackle the endemic rot in the system, maybe it will knock through a few walls to allow for more space to accommodate prevention or even add an extension out the back to allow room for the ever growing number of people who will need social care over the next few years.

Or will it be a white paper that recognises that the house is no longer fit for purpose and tear the whole thing down in order to build a bigger   higher   social care house with firm foundations on personalisation and one that has personalisation insulating all the walls. A new,   desirable,   house that has more than enough capacity for social care to grow, has wide corridors making it easier for those who live in it to move from one room to another and, perhaps, even adjoin the Health Services house with a single door through which people can move with ease.

To  engage   the public in the importance of social care and   build   public awareness we need to ensure that the language we use is accessible to all and that the message being sent is consistent, whether we undertake extensive repairs to the social care house or rebuild a shining new ‘des res’ the important thing is to get the planning permission through with the support of the general population and the millions who will need to live in the house in the future.