Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Social Care 2012: What Needs To Be Done

For those of you reading this familiar only with the insularity of the housing world, you may be thinking that the new housing minister is the most important change in the Government's recent reshuffle. Perhaps you are right and, as an aside, it's worth noting that Prisk set a welcome change of tone both in public and private at last week's NHF Conference. But allow me to venture that it is actually the new health and social care ministerial team (and their successors) who will have the most profound effect on the world of housing and housing associations - at least if you provide a large scale, generic landlord service meeting the needs of the old and vulnerable.

If you aren't on the same page as me about this yet, perhaps we should wait while you go and have a quick read of this report from the King's Fund. At THT we know that our tenants, in ordinary homes as well as sheltered housing, will get less and less able to cope in their existing accommodation; as they age, their vulnerabilities increase and as cuts to commissioner's budgets result in fewer services delivered in a meaner fashion we are left in whole or in part with the responsibility for their care. We are currently equipped with a set of tools that are woefully inadequate for shouldering this burden. Clearly then we must do something - the question is what? Here's my prescription:

1. We must engage: be the ones to reach out to those health and social care professionals who are now devising the emergent systems, using the language that they speak, to evidence the contribution that housing can make. We can't sit outside the discussions that are now shaping the landscape of care and support bemoaning that "they won't talk to us", but rather articulate the compelling case about the extent of the help we can offer. The language of well-being has much to offer here: our evidence must show how it is that housing organisations can help people in communities to stay connected, be active, take notice, keep learning and give. Of course, as I have covered in previous blogs, having better metrics for assessing the social value of what we do would help here.

2. We must innovate: be prepared to devise a new, people-centred, system of care and support, rejecting the time-constrained, profit driven model of the private sector providers and imitated so often by those non-profits who should know better. There are new models starting to emerge - Southwark Circle combines statutory, voluntary effort with significant self-help within a membership-based organisation devoted to solving life's everyday problems. Models such as this start from a driver of basic humanity - centred on value to the carers and cared for, and not to shareholders.

3. We must invest: be robust with our regulator and our housing minister that value for money is about creating decent lives, and that building new homes, important though it is, isn't the only game in town. If commissioners (currently) are not prepared to meet the full cost of these new innovative models of care and support does that really matter? Most housing associations could choose to cross-subsidise the service from other parts of the business - something most of us have been doing with development for many years.

Do this and we might, just might, have a response to the care and support crisis which will otherwise engulf us and our residents. There is an urgent discussion to be had about social care in 2012; how soon that discussion becomes an argument and at what point that argument becomes an outcry is yet to be seen.


  1. As much as I love the idea of a new people centered system that rejects time constraint, would we be able to bring a decent level of social care without putting ourselves at risk?

    Having looked slightly into social care, the amount of bureaucracy is staggaring but still seems neccesary (covering all the relevent checks, costs etc etc).

    How would we get around this?

  2. I guess technology has a large part to play in eliminating the effort of the record keeping that is an inevitable part of such a regulated sector. But I would question whether much of the current bureaucracy is actually adding value for the customer, so I do wonder whether we could safely get rid of much if it.

    1. Engage we must. You are right Mathew we should not have to sit outside the Bureaucrats discussions and wait for a discission that will make its path down to the eventual reciever. It is clear that portions of budgets are always nibbled at as they work their way down to the eventual reciever in most cases.
      Trafford Housing like most Housing Associations are in a position where they can work from the 'inside-out' working to reach those Bureucrats on the outside. Lets not wait outside and work down with the dicissions that have been made for us. We must make the decission from the the point of view of the eventual reciever and help them to carry their opinions, outwards to the very top. What about asking the local MP to cut the ribbon on this Idea?

    2. Thanks. I think we are quite lucky here in Trafford: those discussions are starting to happen here. But I know from colleagues elsewhere in the country that this isn't always the case and housing associations and health/social care organisations should be seen as natural partners everywhere.