‘A tale of two cities’

So, yesterday the Chancellor announced the details of his autumn spending review in the House of Commons. The social care announcements were disappointing to say the least but they didn’t come as a surprise.

Mr. Osborne speaks of more funding for the Better Care Fund (BCF). I believe it’s a great idea for stronger co-commissioning between Health and Social Care as long as, crucially, it is worked out with providers. But recently in Coventry, at our first of four network meetings, discussing the National Living Wage, the message was clear and consistent from every single person present – no one had accessed the fund and it had not made a difference to them. Therefore, is it realistic to say the injection of funds to the BCF will support social care? I think not. There is no evidence that it is has been of any benefit to front-line providers so far. Also let’s not forget that any money won’t be seen for a couple of years anyway. During which time providers will find it more and more challenging to provide quality care and remain sustainable.

Ok, next up – the 2% increase on Council tax that will equate to £2bn for Adult Social Care. The 2% is optional so that is only true if all local councils take up the ‘offer’. It doesn’t take an Economist to realise those less wealthy areas, which are in need of greater care and support, will raise less than the wealthier local areas. Not the best solution. And in the same vain as the BCF, will it actually get to social care? Already we are hearing calls from sector colleagues asking for greater clarity around this and I agree we need to know how this will work.

So many ‘ifs and buts’ and we know it will be a while until all the finer points and details are revealed. We will of course keep you posted.

As I said earlier, the announcements aren’t a surprise. The key is now, how to play the best hand with what has been dealt. Looking forward, how can we help you position yourselves to be part of a solution and not just focus on the problem?

It’s been a week of mixed emotions for me actually. Last Friday I had the honour of attending the staff conference of one of our members – Avalon’s ‘The power of you’ in York. It was an amazing day filled with appreciation, acknowledgement, respect and great information sharing with some interesting speakers. It was good to meet staff from across the whole organisation as well as some of their customers, the people they support. A particular highlight for me was watching the staff awards unfold I must say.

Awards were given for ‘Best support worker’, ‘Team of the Year’ and ‘Customer Achievement Award’ to name just a few. I may have shed a little tear as we watched the videos of the nominations, and I don’t think I was alone. The care, compassion, hard work, dedication was almost tangible in the room – THAT is where the strength of social care is rooted. I know that may be an obvious thing to say but it is something I truly feel, as I watched modest, amazing people get up to receive their award.

It is true that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and with innovation, continued passion and collaboration I truly believe we can still achieve great things even with the limited resources we have. Let’s now look at how because the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.

Lisa Lenton
ARC England Director