I have a friend who works in advertising and readily admits to being not that interested policy or public services. Don't get me wrong, he's cares that people receive good services, he just doesn't think about public services very much. Last week, out of the blue he said, 'I see that social care is in trouble, what's that about?'
Like many people recently, he may have read or seen something about the 'care crisis': because it is, for the first time for a long time, big news! The trouble is the news is unremittingly bad: rising delayed discharges from hospitals, care home closures, and funding shortfalls. For the complete picture of the plight of the sector, look no further than Home Truths, the Kings Funds latest report on the sector.
It is against this backdrop that the latest addition of the State of Care is launched, the Care Quality Commission's annual assessment of the quality of health and social care. The report echoes the wider concerns about the sector described earlier, raising the spectre that the sector could 'tip over' if the current trends persist. It presents data about unacceptably high levels of inadequate care, the failure of many care homes to improve after bad inspections and of providers handing back contracts to local authorities.
At the same time, the report highlights the quality of care that does exist, often despite very unfavourable funding conditions. 71% of adult social care provision is good. And we know that Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Social Care, regularly shines a light on exceptional care: a role we try to fulfil too at SCIE.
Because improvement is possible and good practice does exist; Avenues South East Services, for instance, is an outstanding provider. Increasingly there is also a greater understanding of what can help turn struggling providers around, including changing leadership, good training, and peer support. I wrote about this recently. SCIEs practice guides and accredited training can also help organisations improve quality.
My friend now knows a bit more about social care than he used to. That's a good thing. But if social care is to get the attention it deserves, it would be much better if it was for good reasons rather than bad.