My initial reaction to news that the Draft Care and Support Bill had made it into the Queen’s Speech was one of relief followed by disappointment that there was no mention of attempting to resolve the thorny issue of funding.
Quite rightly many people are examining how this legislation could affect service users and carers, but let us consider social workers. The context of this Bill is that social care is ‘broken’ and ‘dysfunctional’. How does that feel to those of us who have worked and are working in the field of adult social care, and who, despite very difficult circumstances have managed to do some very good work, helping people to come to terms with their difficulties and working together with them and their family and carers to gain the best possible quality of life? Well the words ‘kick’, ‘in’, ‘the’ and ‘teeth’ come to mind.
There is much that needs to be sorted out in the world of adult social care, a great deal of it at the systemic level. One of the main issues for me is that social workers should have a greater role in working with individuals and families when care and support is needed, rather than our role being eroded, as has happened in recent years – something that is now being accelerated by the cuts. We should be working in a framework that supports us, with resources and options available for us to share with service users, as well as a consistency of support that puts an end to the notion of a postcode lottery.
Combined with a straightforward and transparent system, we should be able to enable people to make informed choices about their lives. We should be given time to build relationships and support people properly rather than using a crude tool designed to assess need and aimed squarely at restricting service availability.
Next up, we should have good supervision and training to help us begin to understand the situation of a range of people with disabilities and health problems such as progressive illnesses, Alzheimers and other forms of dementia, terminal illnesses, and other difficulties around safeguarding concerns.
We should be given professional autonomy and enabled to put our knowledge skills and values to good use, to the benefit of service users. We should be heard and respected by our managers at all levels because we want nothing more than the best for our service users and those around them.
It is likely that the Bill will include a section on social work and social workers. BASW worked together with the College and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) on a summit for adult social work at the end of last year which was attended by civil servants involved in the Bill, and we will continue to work on our own account and with others to make sure the valuable role of social workers in this field is acknowledged and fostered.
There is good and bad in the Bill and we will be commenting on the details in the future and responding to consultations drawing on the views of BASW members, but let us not lose sight of the need to safeguard social work interests, which are absolutely bound up with those of service users, and ensure, ultimately, much better service provision for those in need.