Guest blog: A social care vision – it’s all about the citizen

As the new techUK Working Group on Social Care considers everything relating to digitisation of social care, the social care sector itself is impatient for change, not least because it is waiting impatiently for the forthcoming Green Paper. Despite the delay, or perhaps because of it, there’s a growing tension in the sector with a desire to move forward with a new direction. Where might this new direction be heading and how can the expertise in techUK contribute?

At the Association of Directors of Social Services (ADASS) Spring Seminar last week there was a lot of interest in what is becoming known as the Social Care Futures Movement – a way of radically rethinking the current social care model to make it fit for the future. It’s also been a busy week with the announcement by Damian Green on a possible ‘state pension for care’ to fund the social care crisis to a report from the Kings Fund.  

The keynote speeches on the last day of the ADASS conference started with questioning what are the possible reasons for the delay on the long promised Green Paper? We do know that without it the sector seems paralysed, both on the future funding for social care but not just on that.

One of the substantial questions seems to be around what is meant by social care. It seems that it’s not just the government that doesn’t understand social care, it’s the public as well. Does it matter? Some would say not, if we assume business as usual. The old ‘same as’ includes Residential Care Homes and Home Care services with a smattering of digital technological aids to daily living. Is this good enough? techUK would argue that the huge developments in digitisation in almost every area of daily living, means that social care must keep pace. The creation of a new NHSX is a signal that Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, is determined to change this in the NHS, let’s hope the same will be true of social care…

At the first meeting of the Social Care Working Group, the central discussion was all about the citizen. There was a strong consensus that social care is about what the citizen needs and wants, both to have and to buy. So it may make sense to blur the lines between publicly funded social care and people who buy their own care (the so called Self funders), especially when this applies to digital solutions to support those in need of ‘care’. If the citizen needs public money and/or support to get that care organised then they can draw on local, albeit limited, state resources. However, increasingly in future, citizens will expect – and be expected - to do this themselves, often with the support of family and friends.

So the big issue for the tech industry is how best to encourage support for the citizen. Delivering this rapidly expanding market in future could well be through the vehicle of a Personal Budget. What is a Personal Budget? Ten years ago, in the Department of Health, I worked within the Care Services Improvement Partnership (CSIP) on, amongst other things, pilots for what were then called Individual Budgets. Now renamed as Personal Budgets, they can be applied to both health and social care. This is the future. So although there may well still be questions in some circles about what is the meaning of care, the real answer is in front of us. The citizens of the future, ageing citizens will make their own choices.

If you would like to get involved in techUK’s Social Care Working Group and help us shape the vision of what a digitally enabled social care system looks like, please get in touch with Georgina Maratheftis or Ben Moody.

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