Mental health and helping disabled people into work are two key personal priorities for the new President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS).
Margaret Willcox today outlined her priorities as she was appointed to her new role at the ADASS Spring Seminar - including maintaining the momentum on insufficient funding for adult social care.
In her speech to Directors and guests, she stressed that social care was in a “precarious position” and that a “proper conversation” was needed with the public to establish a long-term, sustainable solution to funding adult social care. “As citizens, we need to own the solution,” she said.
Margaret singled out the workforce as the sector’s greatest asset and highlighted the continued support needed to help carers address demand and quality pressures. She also called for a common language for social care so that it’s easier to understand - like the NHS is - to help secure better public engagement.
She said: “Together, we have a great deal of work to do. For the first time this year we have more people with care and support needs than we do carers. It is part of who we are in ADASS to champion those needs for and with older and disabled people. Never before has social care been so high profile. Adult social care was a significant feature in last week's local elections and it will be a key plank in the General Election next month.”
As well as making listening and responding to the ADASS membership a key priority, Margaret outlined mental health as a prime concern. She said:
“My professional background is predominantly in the world of mental health. We strive for good mental health but despite great progress and more understanding, people with long term mental illness still die far earlier than the average adult in this country and the rate of suicide remains a serious concern. I will be working with colleagues in the mental health network, particularly to promote the role of the Approved Mental Health Professional.”
Making the importance of helping disabled people into work another personal priority, Margaret said:
“I have been fortunate to have been involved in a number of services over the years that raised the expectation of employment of people with disabilities and made it happen. There are three things that make people happier and healthier - somewhere safe to live, something useful to do and some money to spend. They are often intrinsically linked but overlooked if you have a disability. We will be working with partners to raise the profile of employment and develop successful models to give people the opportunities they need.”
Paying tribute to her late predecessor, Harold Bodmer, Margaret said ADASS had tried to honour his memory by delivering his priorities. She said:
“Harold said the future of homecare kept him awake at night. It probably gives most of us sleep disturbance. We know there is a lack of career structure for so many of those people who provide essential care to vulnerable people every day of the year. The National Living Wage has helped but it's not sufficient on its own. We need a workforce that is diverse and skilled. We will continue to prioritise the development of the social care workforce and the quality of care as deserved by the people who need us.”
Concluding her speech, Margaret said:
“The year ahead looks promising. I am looking forward to working with all partners to ensure social care is in every conversation and every plan.”
Notes to editor
- Margaret’s full speech can be read here