ONE OF THE biggest questions I ask myself is - `so what?’. ADASS policy has responded to numerous consultations, prepared countless briefings, developed far-ranging policy positions, supported a proliferation of working groups and meetings, run surveys and generally watched ADASS’s back over the year. But to what outcome? And my answer is an unshakable affirmation that ADASS does make a difference. A real difference to people’s lives and their experiences of adult social care

We are renowned for punching above our weight and this is due in no small measure to the commitment and engagement of the broadening ADASS membership. The depth of our collective experience, skills and knowledge gives us the credibility to speak with authority and confidence with government ministers and officials, partners and stakeholders, parliamentarians, local and national press and among ourselves on the issues that matter most for adult social care.

Notable developments this year have included a move towards a more proactively lobbying role regarding the progress of the Care Bill (now Care Act) through parliament. This took the guise of advising against the introduction of entry rights for social workers, the use of CCTV, and seeking political commitment to the assurance of funding. This is a relatively new venture for ADASS in terms of policy activity and our interventions have helped to bring an adult social care professional perspective into related deliberations within parliament.

We continue to play into the Parliamentary Select Committees' programmes and this year presented oral and written evidence to the Health Select Committee and to the Public Accounts Committee. On both occasions we have used this platform to expose the funding crisis facing adult social care as well as to present credible narratives on the opportunities and challenges of integration, the Better Care Fund and commissioning arrangements with providers. Both Committees are highly influential in informing public policy.

This year has also seen ADASS enter into new relationships and extend existing ones, broadening our reach and influence. Most notably, ADASS has worked with The National Audit Office on their groundbreaking report on adult social care and will engage further on their work programme to include, for example, reviewing the effectiveness of the Better Care Fund.

We have strengthened our existing relationships over the course of the year as partners have become increasingly focused on the budget and demand pressures on the health and social care system. This consensus of attention has led to joint letters to the national press and complementary press and policy activity highlighting these pressures from a more joined up perspective from commissioners, providers and representative organisations. This is a powerful collaboration which few politicians can ignore.  

This enhanced partnership policy working has also extended into preparations for the next general election in 2015. We have contributed to a number of high profile Commissions (particularly the Barker and the Oldham Commissions) and reviews established to inform the party manifestos, as well as signing up to sector-wide campaigns such as the Challenge 2015 coordinated by NHS Confed. ADASS has also produced its own policy flyer, which was taken to the main political party conferences.

It goes without saying that the last 12 months has also been incredibly busy with the Care Act. This has largely dominated our attention and ADASS has fielded policy experts to advise on the details and shape of the reforms, coordinated detailed and comprehensive consultation responses and taken a strong leadership role in seeking adequate levels of reform funding for 15/16 and beyond.

Our budget survey has again been another resounding success. With a continued extraordinary high return rate and a credible historic baseline, the survey report is regarded by most, if not all, as the authoritative narrative on the funding challenges facing adult social care. The quality and depth of data not only allow for ADASS to argue the case for adult social care convincingly (the data is also used as the bedrock for the spending round submission) but also provides powerful insight for internal benchmarking and support.

And, as expected, there is always the unexpected. This year was no exception and the Supreme Court Judgment regarding the application of deprivation of liberty safeguards legislation has required a significant ADASS policy response and coordination to understand the impacts and seek a workable solution to ensuring individual rights are upheld and protected.

So another eventful year, and 2015 is looking like it will be business as usual again...

Jonathan Gardam
ADASS Policy