New ADASS President: Jenny Owen stresses key themes

Association of Directors of Adult Social Services
Date: Wednesday April 29, 2009
Embargo: Immediate   

Funding social care in a period of severe economic downturn was one of four major themes incoming ADASS President Jenny Owen stressed in her recent presidential address.

Speaking at the Associations annual spring seminar, Ms Owen flagged up the possibility that local authorities might be called on to help some care home proprietors through the recession, as housing repossessions and homelessness increase, unemployment rises beyond two million increasing benefits takeup, poverty, and more demand for publicly funded services.

And she went on to warn that the capacity of charities to respond could be adversely affected by reduced donations, and there could be less income coming in to social care budgets from charging. Revenue budgets may have significant pressures on them as this starts to take effect.

Overall she stressed the importance of collaborative working, and for the need to analyse the way we spend our budgets and work with the DH on providing the practice evidence on how we have shifted, or can shift in future, traditional spending patterns. This, and successful commissioning generally, might become easier, she said, will be easier if we can work together with PCTs on the efficiency agenda.

Looking ahead to the launch next month of the Green Paper on funding care and support, she emphasised that ADASS has a clear leadership role in promoting the debate in our communities - potentially we have a much greater reach than the government or the DH so need to work closely together on this, she said.

Elsewhere, she focused on her other themes, including:

How we develop the new offer for Adult Social Care

Acknowledging that Adult Social Care will spend £1.5 billion disbursing some 200,000 personal budgets by next year, she argued that this new agenda is integrally connected with the issues in the forthcoming Green Paper, the changing relationship between citizen and state, and the wider public agenda including the community based and preventative health agenda.

We need to be sure that the social care transformation agenda works equally well for the benefit of all older people, including those with dementia who, I think, have the most to benefit from personalisation. This month Secretary of State Alan Johnson pledged to abolish the institutional ageism that pervades the health and social care system, an ambition we would support, though we also know that the solutions will cost, she said.

We need a better understanding of  the universal offer: what's the collective investment and what's paid by individuals, the contribution of families and informal carers, and the organisation of social capital. And we need to work with providers to build a diversity of supply. Stressing that the new policy of Personalisation is central to all our social care strategies, she insisted that it represents a person-centred approach, putting people in control of their lives, shifting power from professionals to people who use services, prevention and access to universal services. 

How we implement a robust framework for safeguarding

Ms Owen noted how the case of Baby P in Haringey and the subsequent actions taken by DCFS and the Laming Review galvanised social care, and how the immediate effect of the news coverage was the negative view held by the public on the work of social workers. We worked closely with directors of childrens services to offer any support and agree lines of communication. We know the impact that the case will have on recruitment and retention of staff, and ADASS will need to work closely with the Association of Directors of Childrens Services to restore morale and public confidence in the workforce.

How we ensure there is an appropriate workforce for the future

The public focus on safeguards has produced a great positive - the recognition of the need to take immediate action to look at the workforce of the future, Ms Owen said. And went on: I am sure we were all greatly encouraged to hear that Moira Gibb had been asked to chair the Social Work Taskforce, with a remit to produce a report later in the year.  We argued strongly that the taskforce needed to cover both children and adults which was supported by Moira, and we are well represented by Richard Jones and James Reilly.

Beyond the Taskforce lie two main challenges, she said:

* Numbers: modelling by Skills for Care projects the numbers of people in the care workforce needs to increase by between 50 per cent and 80 per cent by 2025.

* Putting People First If PPF is to bring about its ambitious changes were talking about, then almost everything about adults social care will need to change, including the roles of care staff, social workers and managers.


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

* For portrait pictures of Ms Owen, a full copy of her presidential speech, and a recently published profile, contact Drew Clode at the numbers given below.