After many months of preparation the 2017 ADASS Spring Seminar is finally here. We are back for the fourth year in a row, at our now familiar home of Yarnfield Conference Centre – 6 miles from Stafford.

Like all large conferences, there are many behind the scene activities which never come to light. This year we had a very public one, namely the general election being called just weeks before the conference. This meant politicians and civil servants were unable to attend. With some favours called in, we were still able to fill the gaps with some very impressive speakers, who I am sure will be just as thought provoking.

We are expecting about 300 people over the next three days to participate in a variety of presentations, workshops and seminars, ranging from financial pressures facing social care to making sure people still have personalised care. These sessions will be led by a variety of people: service users, DASSs and professional bodies.

The morning was spent dealing with formal ADASS business. Then the conference was officially opened by Richard Webb, ADASS Honorary Secretary. Richard welcomed all the delegates and wished them a happy few days at Yarnfield. He reminded people to visit all stands for a chance to win £250 for a charity of their choice, to tweet about the event (hash tag #adassspring) and some speakers have asked for chatham house rule due to purdah with the general election being called. Whilst writing the blog post I have been mindful of the speakers’ requests not to be quoted, so I have given a broad outline of the afternoon’s discussions.

Over the last 20 years, there have been a high number of social care reviews, including the current green paper. Concerns were raised that the green paper would focus on private funding, rather than state funding which helps the most vulnerable. Manifestos will be launched over the next few weeks. It is vital that the recent momentum on social care is maintained, rather than focusing on what they might say. Manifesto commitments are not always kept. Early in the next Parliament, the new government is likely to have a Spending Review, focus on performance of local authorities and to look at funding.

It is recognised that nursing home care providers have the greatest challenges. These providers are dealing with people who have some of the highest needs. The larger the size of the institution, the greater the challenges they face with quality. The link between providers and commissioners is vital to ensure effective local services. Regional quality varies, this can be misleading as there are varying challenges within all the regions. Key issues highlighted: leadership and safety, staffing and dom care and nursing homes, public confidence in care, and sustaining good services. What can be done? Not relying on regulations alone, collective sector responsibility, shaping the market, being innovative and creative, not setting services up to fail, and creating constructive relations with health.

The challenges facing heath, cannot be delivered by just the NHS. Health needs to work with local government, social care, public health etc. Integration means many different things. Services need to be joined up. What’s more important is improving health outcomes for the population. Whilst it is important to increase people’s life expectancy, it is equally important to improve the quality of a person’s life.

Adult and children’s social care need to work together. There are a number of similarities between adult and children’s social care: commissioning for efficiencies, managing demand, systems leadership, leadership of place, shared learning and impact on poverty. Common issues: mental health, sexual exploitation, domestic abuse, missing children/vulnerable young adults and transition to adult social care/whole life approach. Recognition was given to the united sector approach in adult social care. This has helped raise the profile nationally in terms of government recognition and policy changes. The volume of care continues to rise. Early intervention will help reduce demand in adult social care.

Adult and children’s services have a common history, but what about the future? What is the primary focus - competition or collaboration? There is a danger that if we spend more time on one set of priorities, we spend less on another. Do we make the best us of each other’s skills, knowledge and requirements? There are many different professionals involved in assessments. Whilst they play a vital role. Do they allow the individual to actually speak about their problems and concerns?

With thanks to the following people who led the sessions: Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector, CQC; Richard Humphries, Senior Fellow, King’s Fund; Stephen Dorrell, Chair; NHS Confederation; Alison Michalska, President, ADCS and Glen Garrod, Vice-President, ADASS (all being well he will be appointed tomorrow).

This evening there will be a variety of social activities, including the highly competitive tennis tournament (won last year by Oliver Mills and yours truly), drinks reception for new DASSs and our first quiz night kindly hosted Quality Assurance.   

Here is to two further exciting days of the Spring Seminar. Tomorrow will see the election of Margaret Willcox as the new ADASS President for the next year.