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The Association of Directors of Adults Social Services (ADASS) has published a new report, which sets out nine crucial statements to help shape an adult social care reform in the UK.

Called ‘Adult Social Care – Shaping a Better Future: Nine statements to help shape adult social care reform’, the report says that the coronavirus pandemic represents a huge opportunity to rethink, redesign and reorientate the social care system.

The publication notes that COVID-19 has exposed the flaws within the current adult social care system in the UK, which have worsened in recent times due to decades of political inaction and failure to properly prioritise social care.

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“It is the human cost of the Covid-19 outbreak that most starkly underlines why things must change; the number of people who died, care staff who gave their lives caring for others, those who experienced domestic violence, those whose mental health deteriorated, and those family carers who were left exhausted by 24/7 lockdown care,” ADASS says.

However, the association states that rather than reinforcing the current social care system post-COVID, the global pandemic has presented an opportunity to design a social care system that truly meets people’s wants and needs.

To help realise a social care system that is appropriate for all, ADASS’ reports sets out nine statements that it believes will help shape the future of adult social care and create a person-centred system.

Have a public conversation

As a starting point for social care reform, ADASS suggests having a public conversation about the type of care people want and how it is paid for. This should then be used to establish a framework to present to government, who can then help to create an appropriate system.

The charity adds that those with care and support needs, their families, carers, and those working in social care should be involved in the process to help establish a framework for the way care is delivered in the future. This should be inclusive of a range of people with care needs, including working age disabled people and older people.

“The emphasis should be on seeking public agreement on the need to invest in prevention approaches so that people are at less risk of increasing social care needs, and so that people understand their position and rights, and take action for themselves,” the report adds.

Importantly, this step will explore the range of care models available and will bring to attention the national question of how to pay for – and whether to charge for – care, and how to align arrangements with health and housing.

Locally integrated care

Furthermore, the report says that for too long, care has been built around organisations and buildings, like care homes and hospitals, and that the future social care system should be, instead, built around what works for the individual and their families. This means local organisations would work together to deliver care that supports people to stay independent at home, engage with their communities and continue to work.

According to ADASS, the future social care system would see more collaborative working between those with care and support needs, as well as colleagues in housing, planning, leisure, provider organisations and the NHS to provide seamless care and support, who will focus on providing care in the home using assistive technology to facilitate remote care.

This would help free up hospitals, which could then focus on providing emergency and acute care.

Review of care markets

ADASS adds that the future system must be built around the wider implementation of better models of care, centred around giving care provider organisations more certainty around funding and income.

The charity says that properly resourced social care will allow care providers to plan better for the future and invest in technology and innovation.

Additionally, the report outlines that the social care sector should work closely with the NHS to help shape a better future and avoid duplication across the health and social care sectors.

‘Home First’ principle

Equally, ADASS stresses that the future social care system should revolve around supporting people to live independently in their own homes to help them stay in their communities, which could mean a shift away from residential care.

However, the report notes that too many houses currently are inappropriate for elderly and disabled people to live in, and suggests developing a wider and more appropriate stock of housing to ensure people can stay in the places they love for as long as possible, and free up larger housing stock for others who need it.

“To achieve this aim we expect to see a significant national expansion in extra care housing through dedicated funding, with local authorities given an expectation of a significant multiyear programme,” the publication underlines. “We should review current housing rights for people in care settings to strengthen the right to live at home, to remain at home following a change of care needs, and to be discharged home after a spell in hospital.”

A workforce strategy

The report importantly underlines that the current social care workforce has been undervalued by the rest of society, with social care workers typically being paid less than their NHS colleagues; too many people being unpaid or only paid at minimum wage; and insufficient training and development support.

As part of the chance to change the social care system, ADASS says that a social workforce strategy should be implemented. This would involve proposals for a national care wage and progressions to reward the vital work that social care workers carry out.

The report also suggest removing zero hour contracts, providing paid sick leave, offering more flexible working conditions, and investing in training and development.

“We need a comprehensive national strategy that encompasses both paid and unpaid carers,” ADASS underlines.

Prioritise access to technological and digital solutions

Noting that the coronavirus pandemic has seen the rapid uptake, integration and normalisation of assistive technology solutions across the health and social care sectors, the charity says the future social care system should continue to harness the power of technology solutions.

This could be in the form of online consultations, communication through apps, and telecare solutions for remote monitoring and care. The report says that utilising assistive technology solutions will enable people to live better quality lives and stay connected.

ADASS is a registered charity that aims to further equitable social care policies and plans; further the needs of those who need social care services regardless of their backgrounds and status; and promote high standards of social care services.

The charity’s members are current and former directors of adult care or social services and their senior staff.

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