Monday, 15 February 2010

Watching the world of social care at the moment is like watching a firework display. Ideas shoot into the sky painting it with colourful visions which last the briefest of moments before sliding into intangibility trapped within memory whilst the embers meet the embrace of the November mud.

Today the Conservatives fired their rocket into the sky. Headlines were set alight by the
spectacle of the Tories… yes the Tories… outlining plans for workers co-operatives in delivering public-services.

The use of the term workers co-operative, a term associated more with the political left was designed to make a big bang, but is it really as un-tory as it looks? If we cast aside the practical implication, which some commentators feel present serious questions, and concentrate on the core elements it begins to look very, very Tory and presents the real vision of the changes which will be made by a Tory government.

Looking at the heart of the plans it seems the Tories still harbour a hatred of centralised bureaucracies and feel that Labour, although continuing the work of the Thatcher and Major years, has not gone far enough, fast enough or been nearly radical enough.

An interesting concept I learnt at uni this week is the idea that privitisation is not a binary of public/private provision but there are degrees between the poles and three elements, provision, funding, and regulation: for example the state may not provide a service, such as residential care, but will regulate and/or fund it. IB’s interestingly represent a further move towards pure private as regulation becomes almost impossible in such a fragmented market.

But, this aside when we think of privitisation what has happened so far has only been a very few tentative steps into the woods, the state still retains the real power of funding and regulation. The building blocks are there. foundation hospitals, city academies, will the state remove the regulatory framework in favour of a market mechanism where the logic dictates that greater choice will mean poor providers will be unable to survive?

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Who killed free personal care?

Forget who killed Archie in Eastenders. If you want twists, turns, skulduggery and intrigue look no further than the free personal care at home bill.

It seems that what began as a pledge for free care has turned into a fairly large flat fee paid on either retirement or death

I freely admit to having lost track of what is going on. The thought of a flat-fee on retirement worries me; what about people who are not yet at retirement age, how does this affect IB's, what will the thresholds be? One thing I am certain of is that this is not the way to make policy. Service users, workers and carers all deserve more than this.

Friday, 5 February 2010

New Semester and Old Friends

I'm currently reading an excellent book called The Rider by Tim Krabbe. It's about cycle racing a sport which I have been intrigued about since heading to London a few years back to watch the Tour Prologue. I was led there by my love of simply just being on my bike, but my knowledge serbved only by faded memories of the Tour on Channel 4. This meant I didn't really know what was going on but the full-frontal assault of the publicity caravan with its shower of gallic gifts from Hotel Etap pens to Laughing Cow fridge magnets engulfed me in the atmosphere like a peloton mercilessly swallows a lone rider. The smudges of garish colour burnt onto the pixels of my too-slow camera and indelibly in my mind led me to read about the tragedy of Tom Simpson on the moonlike Mont Ventoux, the struggles of the unsung domestique and the pantomine that has always been the Tour de France. These however, are only background to The Rider. Krabbe, a cycle racer himself, invites you deep inside his mind during a fictitious race. This however, serves as a vehicle for an exploration of the real emotions of the racer. The garish colours are stripped away allowing the obsession, pain and determination to glow with flourescent force.

I know I can never be a cycle racer, I do not possess the masochism or ability to ignore pain that is the stock-in-trade of the rider. But, the emotions feel familiar - they should to all of us. We are all involved in our own cycle race. Sometimes we collaborate, sometimes sitting in anothers draft and sometimes we break out alone. We struggle up mountains and try to hold our nerve as we hurtle down the other side. We stretch our mental and physical abilities with an eye on the finish line. University certainly feels this way to me - essay deadlines being like the crest of mountains.

At the moment I am enjoying a section of the race on the flat where the rhythm is more relaxed. I've just been to an introductory seminar for my second unit this semester. The subject of this, and my other unit, is on changes in the delivery of welfare - particularly the involvement of the private sector and voluntary sector in welfare delivery. A subject I'm particularly interested in and intend to enjoy before I reach the next mountain.

I will also be seeing a lot of my old social-services colleagues tonight. It should be a nice get together as even though promises were made to keep in contact these were, despite good intentions, buried under layers of work and other commitments. I will however, have to try to refrain from getting too carried away in discussing social policy!

Monday, 1 February 2010

The Beeb reports

I'm currently paying my way through my uni course by working in a call centre three days a week. For some reason my employers provide internet access but this is limited to the BBC web domain. Exploring this is like exploring Wookey Hole caves with its hidden chambers slowly revealed by deeper and deeper dives into the dark waters. One of my best discoveries to date is a wonderful text based adventure game based on the Hitchikers Guide to ther Galaxy. My main stomping grounds are the news and sport pages. I'm not a huge fan of BBC news, but 9-5 it's all I've got. Today I also noticed an article directly related to the post I made yesterday about the Governments plans for free social care.

According the BBC report the schemes financial projections have been called into question by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS). It turns out the Government assumed that the average cost for a care package for someone meeting the criical criteria is around £100 a week. ADASS on the other hand estimeate it at £200. A figure which from my care management experience appears more realistic. The effect of this underestimate is, the article suggests a £500m funding shortfall which falls squarely on the shoulders of local authorities.

Interestingly elsewhere on the site is an article about a report by former civil-service insiders which in criticising poor legislation fingers the Personal Care at Home Bill as a possible example of legislation which is not sufficiently thought through.

Perhaps yesterday I overstated what I felt was the agenda behind the legislation. To be sure I beleive there is a long term trend for increasing white-collar privitisation in local government but, maybe and this is equally worrying policymakers in government are simply making it up as they go along informed by nothing more than their hunches. To me this is a proposition more worrying than the hypothesis I put forward yesterday.

There are certainly a whole load of logistical issues. One which springs instantly to mind is that care managers will find themselves pressured on one hand by service users and families keen to receive free services and the authourity on the other hand which wants to protect its budget. Has anyone thought of this?