The Centre for Welfare Reform and its allies have, for some time, been concerned with the state of social care in the UK. This is not just a matter of the severe cuts that have fallen on local government services. Even more fundamentally our society is failing to value and respect the positive role played by families, disabled people and older people in our society.
Instead of investing in and supporting citizenship, family and community we treat care as if it were a commodity to be rationed and controlled by a bureaucratic system. The result is devastating: people are being institutionalised, abused and dying unnecessarily. Instead of building a society that values difference and works to include and support everyone we are losing sight of the value of human life. It’s time for a rethink.
For this reason the Centre has developed a proposal which has gone to the Parliamentary Health Select Committee asking them to establish an inquiry into social care.
If you believe this inquiry is important then please contact your MP and ask them to contact the Health Select Committee to express their support.
If you are not sure who your MP is then you can follow this link to the Find Your MP Service here.
If our proposal is successful we hope that many of you will consider submitting your own ideas and experiences to the Health Committee or that you will help the Centre in the development of its own submission in due course.
Full details of our proposal are set out below.
Select Committee Proposal – Rethinking Care
The Centre for Welfare Reform, with its partners in the Rethinking Care Project, ask the Select Committee on Health to consider whether the system of social care in the UK is based on fundamentally flawed assumptions. In particular, we would draw attention to the experiences of people with learning disabilities and their families and to the ongoing failure of the system to reduce unnecessary deaths and abuse.
The social care system is in the midst of a crisis that is conceptual, political and economic. We have lost touch with the true meaning of care and replaced it with the idea of a standardised service, controlled and regulated from above. In reality, care flows from respectful relationships and is rooted in rights. The vast majority of real care is provided by personal assistants, families and communities; but the social care system continues to substitute these with commodified, inefficient and ineffective services.
These problems are compounded by a system that wrongly assumes that regulation, contracting, procurement and re-tendering are suitable tools for improving care. A dangerous culture of compliance has replaced trust and common-sense with bureaucracy and commerce. Many charities have become so reliant on government funding that they have ceased to be effective advocates. Moreover, local government has proved incapable of defending its own role within the welfare state.
Local government has faced the deepest cuts in funding since 2009 and these cuts have inevitably been passed onto social care services, which make up 60% of local government’s discretionary spending. More than half a million people have lost adult social care since 2010, and cuts have fallen first on the preventative services that keep people connected to community. At the same time 3,500 people with learning disabilities are forced to live in institutional services costing £175,000 per year, and associated with high levels of ongoing abuse. Many more are placed in residential care services far from their homes.
The consequences of these intertwined problems are severe and include:
- Persistently high levels of abuse, institutionalisation and unnecessary deaths for people with learning disabilities.
- Individuals and families are not supported to be citizens, participating in community life; instead the system encourages crisis and family breakdown.
- Despite the development of personalisation, resources remain locked into institutional services or tied down by bureaucratic controls on personal budgets.
- The social work profession is in disarray; with no effective leadership social workers are unable to use their skills or intelligence effectively within the bureaucratic system.
- Damaging systems of procurement, contracting and bureaucracy continue to undermine innovation, community development and effective advocacy.
- The regulatory system doesn’t enhance citizenship, community or care, but focuses on false proxies or distracting processes and systems which lack any evidence base.
- Shared Living Communities, such as L’Arche and Camphill, are mistaken for ‘services’ and human relationships are replaced with professionalised and paid roles.
It is time for a radical review of the whole social care system. Instead of trying to inject additional funding into a broken system it is time to ask fundamental questions about the kind of society we want to become. We need to question the faulty and unproven assumptions that underpin the regulation and control of care; instead we need to start to define and defend the rights that enable each and every one of us, especially people with disabilities, to function as citizens, in families and in functioning communities.
We hope that the Committee would consider investigating these issues and hearing testimony from those most involved with the issues, such as people with learning disabilities their families and those offering innovative alternatives and solutions.