Friday, 30 July 2010

Social Care in the Media

The first thing I did this morning was read a few pages of the excellent Pete Davies book 'All Played Out'. Sadly it is now out of print, but without wishing to write a review a large part of the book is dedicated to the machinations of the press and the role they played in creating and perpetuating the hooligan stereotype. Davis himself not disguising his contempt for the gutter press.

The second thing I did was to switch on the television. Not being one for the endless re-runs of Friends and Top Gear I decided on BBC Breakfast just as the local news segment was beginning.

There are certain things which happen with a depressing regularity, late trains, disappointment with a well hyped film (Inception) and England losing a penalty shoot out. Added to the list should be abuse in care homes; so regular it is, even in social service departments, almost expected.

The media for their part have a standardised response to any breaking story of care home abuse and the first target is always social services. The report I watched today was true to form. A brief presentation of the facts then the camera switches to a person the caption identifies as the relative of a resident. What do they comment on, their horror that their loved one may have been mistreated, their concern for them and other residents. Condemnation of the home, or even surprise.....

Not one thing of it, this may come later but, first, now it is always the same. The people the relative condemns are social services. In this case the relative is criticising social services for their indecision; telling them one day they're relative would need to move in a few days, then later revising this to immediately. The implication is that social services are dithery and incompetent

Possibly these are some valid points, maybe the department could have communicated better, but is this relevant to the story? Is it even that preventable? I can picture the scene in the office. Frantic phone calls trying to arrange emergency placements, constant calls to senior managers, the police, CQC. Assessing risk, making sure people are safe and trying to keep people informed against the backdrop of a constantly shifting situation on the ground as well as phoning their own families to tell them they won't be home until 10pm that night, getting someone to pick the kids up from school and give them dinner. I can picture this as I've scene it many time; dedicated competent people competently doing their jobs to keep people free from harm.

One case I was familiar with the local rag criticised social services and the police for being incompetent and heavy handed. Column inches were given over to family members who praised the home and the hard-working, caring staff whilst raging against social services. The tone changed when the owner and manager were convicted by a court; both receiving prison sentences.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Reform don't come cheap!

Browsing my copy of the Observer today with a relaxing cup of tea I found this article.

In summary it speaks of the tensions arising from the short-term costs of reforming parts of the benefits system. Reform, unless it is simply a term applied to mask slash-and-burn policy, is a costly process.

Interestingly and worryingly the article points out that the aim of policy (to make work pay) can only be achieved without additional costs by cutting the benefits paid to the most vulnerable. Thankfully at the time being an option which will be politically difficult - unless the govt. succeeds in further demonising anyone in receipt of benefits.

I could write a whole post about the folly of a policy like Tax Credits which in effect subsidises employers who choose to profit from paying low wages. The other alternative on offer is to make employers cover costs of living, food, housing, transport etc by compelling them to pay a living wage. The chances of this coming from the Conservatives is however, very remote. No doubt they would cite job losses arising from an enhanced minimum wage, but could the reality simply be a redistribution within companies, less executive pay and fewer bonuses in favour of a living wage on the shop floor?

Now, where was I? Well, the article I think confirms many of the suspicions around IBs that the money needed in the short-term to make the scheme a success isn't going to be forthcoming. The problem then is not simply that the policy will have failed, but its potential to cause real damage to the very people for whom it purports to represent a new dawn.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

In search of the Holy Grail

I love the Guardian. For coverage of social policy, particularly social care it really is second to none.

I've just read another interesting article on Individual Budgets. It is over a year since I left front-line work behind yet the debate still rages and with even more intensity since the change in government and a chance in fiscal policy from prudence to pruning; or hack and slash depending on your political view-point.

The article takes the arguement far deeper into new territory. IB's should, it suggests be rolled out as a new model to replace the out-moded structures of the post-war welfare state. An interesting point, but one with which I disagree. As one commentor, anenome 6, points out we have come a long way from the kind of welfare state set up in 1945 and to suggest otherwise is a crude mis-representation.

I won't go over old ground here. My comment on the article was to once again harp on about the need to think about equality when it comes to IB's, something which always seems to be missing from the debate. In our rush to tinker with systems we need to keep sight of our core principles such as equality and fairness and make these more central to our judgements...

Anyway, perhaps the most telling part of the article comes in the final paragraph:

In future, the world might be different if Alan, Jane, Dave and others like them could get a single assessment of their needs,

Hasn't the single assessment process been a term bandied about in Social Care for a number of years? I certainly remember my department possessing glossy leaflets promoting it. One single multi-professional assessment so people didn't have to tell their stories again and again.

This was certainly the aim, but the messy reality was that some people would need to tell their story firstly to an untrained call-centre operator, then another unqualified member of staff carrying out a 'screening' assessment over the phone before a centrally based care manager would visit and assess and if not in immediate crisis a person would then be assessed again later by a locality team care manager. Single assessment it was not(and I am actually simplifying things here by leaving out Physio and Occupational Therapy assessments!)

So the single assessment process was, despite the leaflets proclaiming it a reality, as fictional as a chart of Soviet grain yeilds. Merely a half-harted quest for the unobtainable.