Reimaging the future of social care: Ideals need action

Blog post 14 August 2017

Social care . . . what will become of it? I often muse on the future and what will emerge when my watch with West Midlands Care Association is over.

Technology undoubtedly must play its part, though I’m still wholly persuaded that no matter how clever robotics become it will never replace the human touch.

On a global scale the first challenge is to tap our collective intelligence. To quote a recent piece I read, “there are many tools available to involve more people in the design and implementation of social care policies.”

But central to the development of social care must be those who are its users. It is they whom must be the building blocks of any new design.

Fused with a political will to achieve ‘a sustainable solution’ our Government needs to draw on the experiences of providers and a global platform of brilliant thinkers.

But anything new – I too worry about the proposed options that may be tabled in the cross-party Green Paper – brings almost natural resentment.

There clearly needs to be a commitment to experimentation. It’s the only way to know if that which is new could work.

Key to all of our futures in the care sector is communication and a generous spirit of needing to share funds and information. Perhaps we’re getting there, but the progress is painfully slow in national terms. Health and social care need to work hand in glove, but they’re sadly two very separate entities.

Paul Burstow, a former Government care minister, wrote a fascinating article in the Guardian last month that focused on those who had embraced the future of caring.

Under the headline “Here’s what the care homes of the future should look like”, he unpacked life in a gated care village at Weesp in the Netherlands. Designed for people with dementia, it had a supermarket, streets with shops and small-scale homes.

None of the staff wore uniforms and the ethos was centred around the normal rhythm of life. Residents who were able were helped to cook, wash up, handle laundry and other domestic duties.

The development literally mimics real life and there’s even side-by-side cycles that more able residents can help pedal.

And then there was the UK care home Burstow found that formed the Wide Awake Club for residents who could not sleep at night, engaging in crafts, games and even meals.

Of course these enlightened models of care come at a cost – finance, yes, but also a willing to reimagine all of our futures and do something about it.

Ideals cannot have effect without action.