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Adult social care is ‘trapped in 1940s and unfit for purpose’, warns Birmingham-based study

Adult social care is ‘trapped in 1940s and unfit for purpose’, warns Birmingham-based study

🕔09.Oct 2013

Adult social care in Britain is based on a system developed in the 1940s that is increasingly unfit for purpose in the 21st century, a hard-hitting Birmingham-based study has warned.

Local council processes for looking after vulnerable older people are “fundamentally broken” and require a radical re-think, the investigation by the University of Birmingham and Birmingham City Council concludes.

The paper – Turning the Welfare State Upside Down? – is based on research into local authority social care departments and is timed to coincide with the return to Parliament of the Care Bill.

In calling for a new approach to adult social care, the document warns that councils are increasingly concentrating scarce financial resources on a relatively small number of people in critical need of help, leaving a far larger number of adults with low to moderate needs uncared for.

The study echoes the Government’s Big Society initiative by suggesting that individuals and local communities must be encouraged to do far more to help each other in future as council social services departments face a continuing financial squeeze.

It concludes that all too often councils end up concentrating on what an individual cannot do for themselves rather than what they can do to help themselves.

The document warns:With major financial and demographic challenges set to continue for

some time, there may be a need to ask even more fundamental questions not just about what councils can do for local people and communities, but also about what local people and communities can do for themselves, and how councils can then organise around this more effectively.

“Rather than a deficit-based approach, this might involve understanding and building on people’s assets, moving to a situation where local people, communities and public services co-produce solutions together.

“In many ways, this feels similar to debates about ‘the Big Society’ under the Coalition and about ‘rights and responsibilities’ under New Labour – but with neither of these ways of framing the issue yet translating into practical ways forward on the ground.”

The report calls for:

  • Recognition that adult social care spending is a form of social and economic investment that helps people to be active citizens, supports people to return to employment and can generate new businesses opportunities for local people
  • A closer relationship with the NHS so that scarce public resources are used as effectively as possible and the needs of people with complex needs are met in full
  • ·         A closer relationship between local and national government so that both see themselves as partners when trying to resolve traditional dilemmas and develop new approaches.

Professor Jon Glasby, Director of the Health Services Management Centre at Birmingham University, and lead author of the report, said: “Local authorities across the country are struggling to meet their responsibilities in a very difficult financial and policy context. With higher levels of need, higher public expectations and widespread cuts, the previous approach to adult social care feels fundamentally unfit for purpose.

“Rather than starting with deficits, things people can’t do for themselves, we need to start with social capital and community resources – things people can for themselves and others, and everyday solutions that make sense to them.

“In future, adult social care needs to adopt more of a community development approach – working with individuals, groups and communities to build capacity and helping people to find new ways to achieve chosen lifestyles.”

The report drew immediate support from the Shadow Minister for Care and Older People, Liz Kendall: “This report is absolutely right to say that our social care system is broken and increasingly unfit for purpose.

“We need a big and bold response to tackle the crisis and ensure a decent and fair system for the future.

“The report is right to emphasise the need for closer cooperation between social care and the NHS, and shaping services around the needs of an individual.”

 

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