2018: The year of positivity or negativity?

So here we are… the second week of 2018 and I have already written a report about how strained the social care sector is and why partners need to start listening to us.

This particular report focuses on the sustainability or otherwise of the care at home sector, with survey data from members telling us that 2017 saw half of providers not tendering for Local Authority contracts and 40% handing work back to councils.

Looking ahead to 2018, home care services tell us they are concerned about their ability to continue operating this year.  In fact, only 14% feel confident about their provision this year and nearly a quarter have extreme concerns.

What a way to start to the year.

A noticeable trend over the past 12 months has been the extent to which Scottish Care’s research and statements have gained widespread media coverage in a way that didn’t happen before.  The publication of today’s report is no different, with STV and the Herald already covering it this morning.  Whilst this is a positive reflection on Scottish Care’s ability to reach and influence others, it is probably much more an indication of just how important the issues we raise really are, not only to the sector but to the whole of Scotland and to the health and social care infrastructure which as a whole seems so fragile.  Does it mean people are starting to listen?

This new report comes on the back of the 2017 reports I wrote, which included work to highlight the lack of support for care staff’s palliative and end of live provision (Trees that Bend in the Wind), the impact of the removal of preventative homecare (Bringing Home Care), the growing recruitment & retention crises (Care Home Workforce Data & Independent Sector Nursing Data) and the strain placed on care staff’s mental health (Fragile Foundations).

And coming up in the next few weeks will be the uncertainty around the future of the National Care Home Contract.

This all sounds extremely negative and in many ways it is, showing again and again just how undervalued and under-resourced the independent care sector is.  So is this negativity the theme of 2018?

Well, not entirely.  All these reports also highlighted how many examples of compassionate, innovative care take place in spite of the vast array of challenges. Even today’s report highlights that care services are trying their utmost to continue delivering high quality care and won’t allow their values to be continually undermined by poor contract terms.

A planning meeting that we held last week within Scottish Care highlighted how many exciting projects and initiatives aimed at supporting reform will be undertaken in 2018.  These include work with the Glasgow School of Art on reforming home care and many other proposals in the pipeline which we’ll share through our blogs in the coming weeks and months.

What’s more, there are so many good news stories to be told about care.  Just this week, I’ve been made aware of a relative of a care home resident who wants to recognise the amazing care they received over the 14 years up to and including their death.  I also heard of another service who realised that across 7 of their staff, they had a combined sector experience of 130 years (an average of over 18 years each), so there are still many people who pursue care as a career and love it.

So is 2018 a year of positivity or negativity?  I would contend that it is partly both, but more importantly it needs to be the year of listening, and of acting.

The challenges won’t be solved overnight, not by a long shot.  And the positive work will continue in terms of everyday good care and the learning and sharing of new ways of working.  Both of those things are a given.

What will really make the difference (and determine whether we have a sector to survey next year on their sustainability), is what partners, policy makers and practice influencers do with the messages we continue to give to them – of the real challenges and the real difference our services make.

As we say in the new report:

“We can no longer tinker around the edges of social care – the challenge needs to be grasped with both hands and driven forward by a political will to ensure there are a range of high quality, sustainable services.”

2018 needs to be the year we move past a flurry of media coverage, a wringing of hands and then a return to the status quo.  It simply can’t happen anymore if we want there to be a social care sector.

Scottish Care doesn’t want to be the constant bearer of bad news.  We want to be a positive partner in finding practical and meaningful solutions so that everyone who requires social care can receive the best.  So this year I ask that you listen to us, and act with us, to ensure the positivity outweighs the negativity in social care.

Becca Gatherum

Policy and Research Manager, Scottish Care