Call for cross-party alignment on social care costs

Association of Directors of Adult Social Services
Date:  Thursday October 22, 2009
Embargo: Immediate

A call is made today  for broad, cross party support, following the next general election, for a debate which sets out a real understanding of what citizens can expect from the entire health and social care system, no matter whether they have an acute condition like cancer, or a long term one such as dementia.

The debate should make absolutely clear for the first time what services citizens are entitled to for free,  and what they will be expected to pay for themselves.


In her speech to a major conference on adults and children's social care, Jenny Owen, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) warned that issues about finding new and sustainable sources of funding cannot be kicked into the long grass any more: "the current situation is stark," she said.


"These are hard times for people using services and seeking support, for their families and carers, and also for front line practitioners, and service providers, as evidenced by the recent ADASS survey on the impact of the recession.


"Working in social care, we could take the view that this is the most difficult time - extreme economic pressures and downturn in public spending,  alongside the continued upward demand for social care services, and the last few months before a general election. But we must make it a year of opportunity. We have the burning platform for change: it is too good a crisis not to waste."


And although she praised both political parties for raising the profile of social care, she pointed out that "concentrating only on residential care costs on the one hand, or on the costs of caring for people in their own homes on the other, risks seriously destabilising
an already fragile health and social care system for older people, or of creating perverse incentives.


"Political leaders from all parties need to recognise that the costs of caring for people in their own homes, and in residential homes as well as in hospital, all need to be seen as a single, indivisible whole."


Reiterating the Association's support for the Green Paper on adult care funding, she applauded its candour:


* "It says it like it is. The current system is underfunded by about £5bn, it's incoherent, and unfair. We know."


* Its scope: "A major and far reaching reform of the system of social care and support."


* Its principles which "confirm the strategic direction set by Putting People First."

But she warned, too, of several shortcomings: The Green Paper:


* Does not dwell sufficiently on the importance of social capital which was missing, nor on the important role of the family, community and carers in people's lives.


* Is light on concrete proposals about joint working. It places great emphasis on the principle of joint working, "but perhaps more could be achieved through a national concordat setting out minimum expectations on each agency."


Ms Owen went on to stress the importance of leadership in transforming social care.

"I think we can be proud of having established a new model of delivering government policy through co-production. The social care sector is driving the implementation of PPF with excellent support from the Department of Health. It is a model that works. The next step is to move to true co-production with the independent sector and with citizens.


"But the scale and scope of this journey is far greater than we first imagined. It is challenging councils' organisational processes. It is starting to offer more control and flexibility to citizens. But to offer more choice there need be changes to the supply of services, and the independent sector has a critical role to play here. It will probably take a decade to embed a new infrastructure. We need to make the most of the first three years of the transformation programme and funding to lay secure foundations for the longer term."


On a personal note, Ms Owen reminded her audience that she was "part of the baby boomer generation, benefiting from a good health system and educational opportunities that meant I was the first generation in my family to have further education and get a degree. And not only to contribute to a pension but, unlike my father and his father, have expectations that I might get to enjoy it in retirement."


She concluded: "I started by talking about our leadership challenge. It would be more
accurate to describe it as a leadership obligation. The current climate calls for leadership of a high order from across the whole sector, projecting a positive vision, developing a shared sense of direction and celebrating what we do well.


"I have spent 33 years working in social care, and I think we now have a once in a generation chance to reform the social care system root and branch. We should now work together in common purpose to achieve that end."


For further information, contact
Jenny Owen, ADASS President, 01245 434806
Drew Clode, ADASS Policy/Press Adviser, 020 8348 5023/07976 837755


* Copies of the full speech, and pictures of Ms Owen available on request.