This time of year is always very busy for us all – getting the Christmas decorations up and finishing off (or in my case starting) the Christmas shopping, and so on…

And this Christmas-time the pace continues to be relentless, urging the government to see what is really happening in social care and the many challenges it faces. The lobbying continues following the spending review announcements. Only two days ago a joint letter from ADASS, CPA ,CSA and NHS Confederation was sent to the Chancellor making the position clear and asking some searching questions. We await a response.

There has been a lot of other work and activity too since the last edition of ‘Real People’. There was an All Party Parliamentary Group meeting, attended by one of our members, during which Alistair Burt acknowledged that “cuts, the funding gap and possible future cuts put an enormous pressure on the Health and Social Care Sector”. However, the Minister also stated that despite those difficulties there are examples of great support provisions.

As you may already be aware we have been holding meetings on the impact of the National Living Wage, which has now broadened to the impact of the Spending Review too. Time and time again, as each meeting unfolds the message is clear and consistent – if things continue as they are, providers will face real issues in terms of sector sustainability, which will ultimately put vulnerable people at risk.

But stop. It’s the season of hope. So let’s look for the good in all of this. Our NLW meetings certainly haven’t been all doom and gloom. They have highlighted that there are some practical actions that can be taken to lessen the burden a little, or at least gain some traction in the quagmire ahead.

We will be sharing these ideas in more detail but suggestions such as greater local provider engagement with both Commissioners and local Councillors (and MP’s), and potentially sharing some back office functions to keep costs down seemed to come up time after time. Also those words, ‘innovation and collaboration’ seem to be at the heart of a solution-focused movement.

It was extremely valuable having three Commissioners attend our Northern regional meeting in Leeds, including Bev Maybury who is also the ADASS National Policy Lead for Commissioning– the message from all 3 of them was loud and clear, these Commissioners want to be part of that solution. Of course, across the land providers have varying experiences and relationships with their Commissioners but surely by working together everyone benefits, including the people who are being supported, which is what it’s about isn’t it?! Going forward we here at ARC England are looking at ways to build stronger relationships between the two. In fact, following on from that meeting I already have a diary date early next year with a Commissioner in Sheffield to look at how to champion this. It’s a start.

The other hot topic this week is Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards; the CQC has published its sixth annual report on monitoring DoLS. It warns that while they have found some examples of providers doing things correctly, they are continuing to find variations in implementation. (See my summary on the last CQC Trade Association meeting). Also, the CQC said it recognised the significant pressures facing local councils but warned they must not “inappropriately minimise” referrals as this increases the risk of people being deprived of their liberty unlawfully.

This issue continues to roll on and I think will do for many months to come. We can help with closing the knowledge gap for staff. We have a raft of MCA/DoLS training arranged. Please let us know if we can support you or your staff teams with this.

Until the next ‘Real People’ (the last of 2015), stay warm and enjoy the lead up to the big day…

Merry Christmas!
Lisa Lenton, ARC England Director