We are off – day 1

After many months of preparation the National Children’s and Adult Services Conference is now finally upon us. This is a great opportunity to hear from key speakers, reflect on and discuss the key issues from across the health and social care sectors. The conference was opened by Lord Porter, the Chair of the LGA; Margaret Willcox, ADASS President and Alison Michalska, ADCS President.

The main messages from Margaret’s speech were:

  • the budget pressures facing adult social care 
  • ADASS’s hopes for the upcoming adult social care green paper consultation
  • concerns over the measures being taken to limit delayed transfers of care, and the impact this is having on relations with our NHS colleagues
  • positive stories about adult social care

During Margaret’s speech she made reference to some of the key findings from ADASS’s Autumn Survey. Almost half, 48%, of all authorities reported that they have experienced homecare providers handing back contracts in the first five months of the fiscal year. That’s up sharply from just over a third, 37%, who said the same over a longer period – six months - in ADASS’s main Budget Survey from earlier this year. More than 45% of councils say that they are finding it difficult or very difficult to source homecare for people who need it.  Just over 20% of councils say they are struggling to find enough places in residential homes, but 52% are struggling to find enough places in nursing homes.

I attended a couple of thought provoking sessions about employment support and carers. The carers’ session focused on working together to develop carer friendly communities. There are currently 6.5 million people providing unpaid care and support to family and friends. Carers are an essential, often undervalued part of our communities. The session explored how local areas can drive the improvement of support for unpaid and family carers – and the resources and support available to help them.  We heard some fantastic examples of coordinated local action, and the experiences of carers themselves. Local authorities leadership plays a crucial role in raising awareness of caring, leading the development of carer friendly communities, and ensuring services support those in the most intense caring roles and at moments of crisis.

The employment session focused on the role work plays in giving all people value, whether it is socially, economically and psychologically. The core purpose of adult care and support is to help people to achieve the outcomes that matter to them in their life, and for some this means gaining or remaining in paid employment.  In the session, we heard a moving account from Clenton Farquharson about what being in employment has meant to him and from a Hertfordshire County Council about their vision for local supported employment services. HCC’s service aims to ensure that people who require additional support are given the same opportunity to secure and retain employment opportunities as the general population, recognising that access to employment will influence the quality of their lives, including friends and relationships, contributing and having a role, staying active and keeping well.


Day 2 - More inspiring stories of how adult social care makes a difference

Around analysing today’s DToC figures and finalising a presentation I managed to attend some thought provoking and inspiring sessions at NCAS. 

I attended a fantastic session about supporting people with a learning disability to have fulfilling lives in the community. I was particularly interested to here from Jen Blackwell who shared her experiences of how dance has transformed her life. She even performed a dance routine.

Helping support people with learning disabilities has increasing become a focus of local authorities as the number of people who have a learning disabilities increases. Local authorities continue to look at new ways of addressing some of these challenges – and achieving better outcomes for people by supporting the development of natural relationships and strengthening our focus on progression, independence and community inclusion. Increasingly councils are looking to work with community and voluntary organisations. The session also heard about different approaches by organisations/local areas which are about helping people to build natural relationships within their community and be active citizens.

I heard an interesting debate about quality in adult social care. No single person or organisation can improve the quality of adult social care on their own. Everyone who uses, provides, commissions, oversees or supports care and support services must play their part.  All local partners need to work together to drive up quality which will make a real difference to the lives of people who use services, their families and carers.

I listened to a thought provoking discussion about securing the long-term sustainability of adult social care. After years of pressure adult social care is now a well-recognised public policy priority. It featured heavily in the recent General Election campaign and there is growing awareness amongst the public that action is needed if we are to meet ever-rising demand with quality care and support that promotes independence and wellbeing. With a set of Government proposals on the horizon for securing the financial sustainability of care, and for harnessing its wider role interacting with other services to support positive ageing, we now have a chance to lay the foundations for the future. Local government has a vital role to play in ensuring those foundations are solid.

We ended the day by attending the highly enjoyable Guardian quiz, which has become a NCAS institution. All profits are being donated to a local charity.


Day 3 – final reflections


I started the day by attending a session on different approaches to transformation. It examined how councils are seeking to meet financial challenges, many are embarking on significant and innovative transformation programmes. The approaches taken are by necessity many and varied, and there is no one right way to identify and deliver on the best approach for local communities. Whatever model is chosen, strong political and managerial leadership will be essential to drive effective change and to realise ambitions. I heard from several local authorities from across children and adults’ services which shared their learning on leading change locally.

The final session looked at the challenges facing social care. Unfortunately 2017 has seen an unprecedented number of high profile tragedies hit the country, leaving lasting marks on communities that will take a significant amount of time to come to terms with. Local public services have a key role in helping to enable communities in their recovery from these crises, not just in the immediate aftermath, but in the weeks, months and years that follow. Delegates heard from councils who have been involved in responding to these tragic events; both in terms of the immediate aftermath and the long-term work being undertaken to help their communities to recover.

I hope that everyone enjoyed the conference and will be able to take some of the learning back to their organisations. See you next year in Manchester. Wishing everyone a safe journey back home.