For many of us in local government, there was concern about suggestions that the Government was looking at centralising social care ahead of the Green Paper being released.
Reflecting on this, last month the County Councils’ Network released a short report outlining the key principles that county leaders believe should form the basis of reform, in recognition of the challenges we have faced this year.
While it is easy in the wake of the first wave to focus on elderly people and hospital discharges, the reality is that social care is much more than this. A significant minority of people are working-age adults with severe learning disabilities, while support also ranges from mental health issues and help for those with substance abuse issues.
The Government needs to widen its scope of what care encompasses and allows us to keep these individuals as independent as possible.
At the same time, we suggest that the Government views social care and its relationship to the health service through a different lens. The NHS is great at treating immediate issues, while social care is a service for the long haul: people may dip in and out of it before their condition worsens and they need more intensive care.
Instead of ‘health and social care’, perhaps a useful starting point would be to make them related but distinct – ‘acute and community care’.
But for care for the long haul to work successfully, it needs to be embedded it the community – wrapped around public health, housing, and voluntary groups, with councils having a direct role through personalised care plans or an indirect impact through managing local care markets.
All of this will be lost if services are centralised. Over the past decade councils have continued to provide high-quality care for individuals, tailored to their needs, despite major funding reductions and moves to ad-hoc funding streams.
There is a lot we can be proud of. So, let’s cherish that it is a local service – and make the point forcibly that it should continue to be.
Cllr David Fothergill is health and social care spokesperson for the County Councils’ Network