Build a Collaborative Future Using Evidence

On Monday 3 October, IMPACT hosted a Conservative Party Conference fringe event in Birmingham city centre: ‘Utilising the Evidence to Build a Collaborative Future for Adult Social Care’.

The panel was made up of:

  • Jon Glasby, Director of IMPACT and Professor of Health and Social Care at the University of Birmingham
  • Damian Green MP, Co-Chair of the APPG on adult social care and MP for Ashford
  • Sarah McClinton, ADASS President and Director of Health and Adult Services and Deputy Chief Executive for the Royal Borough of Greenwich
  • Ruch Amos, self-described “average guy who has a passion for reducing inequalities for disabled people”
  • David Brindle (Chair), senior commentator and ex-Guardian Public Services Editor

Learning from lived experience

The panel was focused on how we can promote good practice, scale up, aid innovation and remove the barriers. The discussion started with Rich’s lived experience of adult social care, emphasising the importance of having a network of friends and the effect of changes to funding – after moving into local authority accommodation, individual care budgets were replaced by collective ones.

“Funding was only available for us to exist.”

Rich Amos

He reflected that there was a real lack of attention to individual support needs and was told his housemates should be his source of social interaction. He and his housemates were treated as one unit, not individuals. Rich has now moved to a different local authority, where he was reassessed and it was recognised he needed one to one support, which he now receives through PAs supporting him 24 hours a day.

The challenges

“The overwhelming barrier is the lack of capacity.”

Damian Green

Damian Green emphasised workforce provision and a lack of smooth planning as significant issues – constituents have told him that care home space is available, but it’s very hard to get domiciliary care. He said a lack of organisation, paired with a need for more funding, means innovation in social care is hampered.

Sarah McClinton said it’s important to reflect on the breadth of care, with over half a million people waiting for social care right now. She also said crises feed into short-termism, and longer-term planning is challenging.

Jon Glasby called for adult social care to be reframed nationally, with care seen as able to change lives. At the moment, there’s a lack of visibility: challenges are not well-understood by the public and policy-makers, and social care is portrayed as a burden. He added that people feel policy claims what they should be doing but the question is how do we do this for real? IMPACT’s co-design survey found people want more practical support, rather than evidence.

Rich Amos emphasised the external factors that are playing a part in challenges finding accessible accommodation, from Covid to the lack of accessible new build properties. He said the system needs to be more flexible and adaptable, and that we’ll keep having these conversations unless learnings are shared and the system changes.

Opportunities for change

Damian Green said we need to change planning rules, so a percentage is set aside for accessible housing/housing for those drawing on social care. He said it could make a radical difference, challenging the crisis narrative if care was embedded in people’s lives and routines. He also emphasised the possibilities an imaginative use of assistive technology could open up.

Sarah McClinton agreed, emphasising the control these changes could give people. She said we will all need housing that lets us be independent for the longer. Discussing the future of the sector, she highlighted: broader housing standards and more flexible approaches. She also suggested more integrated care systems, with more focus on recovery and building independence, as well as learning from COVID (data on support needs/vulnerability presents the possibility to do preventative work).

“Good support isn’t just about ‘services’ – it’s about having a life.”

Jon Glasby

Jon Glasby said you have to start with the person and the life they want to lead, and build back from that – a person-first approach. He added that community navigators and local area coordinators are really valuable, so we need to have creative conversations about what support people need & from whom.

David Brindle asked a quick-fire question. What would you prioritise, to improve adult social care?

  • Rich Amos: Co-production is key, the benefits are clear. We need a national, universal approach to this instead of pockets of excellence and of fragmentation.
  • Damian Green: Ending the conception that social care is funded by council tax. It must be funded nationally. We also need a proper workforce plan.
  • Sarah McClinton: Making the sector more attractive to work in: better pay for the social care workforce, parity with NHS staff, the workforce needs to feel truly valued and that there are career development opportunities
  • Jon Glasby: Organising care well relies on relationships – building relationships locally with partners, and between central and local partners.

Rich Amos said people must be involved at every step of the journey when designing services, with equal relationships and power dynamics removed to create better outcomes for everyone involved.

Jon Glasby said good leadership is needed at all levels but there’s currently an ambivalent attitude towards leadership across the sector – need to create routes where people can keep doing what they love in their jobs as they move up the career ladder. He added there’s no shared approach and united sense of what success looks like in social care so we end up arguing with ourselves & presenting varied messaging to policymakers.

Sarah McClinton emphasised that work is needed to improve staffing and resourcing, through a workforce plan.

“Adult social care can be very scary for individuals, but we all need to remember the impact it has. We get so focused on policies, agendas, but adult social care comes down to humans supporting each other and if that works well it enables people who draw on care to live fulfilling lives.”

Rich Amos