Are we ready for this revolution in care?

March 26, 2015 14:21

The Social care system is now relevant to more of us than ever before. Next month marks a pivotal moment in the history of care in this country. It sees the coming into force of the Care Act 2014, a long-anticipated piece of legislation which introduces a raft of changes to the way care is prioritised, funded and delivered. As a community, with a host of leading organisations working in this arena, this is a vitally important juncture. One that places us at a crossroads.

Jewish communal care providers must now understand precisely what has changed. Most importantly, we have to work in a way that not only meets the needs of those we support, but also meets the expectations of local authorities who provide the funds - who themselves have vastly reduced budgets. If we do not, we stand to wither and die.

Local authorities now speak a new language as a consequence of this Act. They expect those they work with to be results-driven. Every penny of their money must be worked even harder and generate tangible and quality outcomes tailored to the individual being supported. This will prove incredibly demanding, and is certainly not business as usual. Failure to deliver means being held accountable and, if that happens, social services will quickly look elsewhere for a better alternative.

We simply must get to grips with this culture shift if we are to sustain the current services we provide to the most vulnerable among us. In the context of the important campaign launched by the JC last week, many with learning disabilities frequently experience acute loneliness without the support Langdon provides, which empowers them with the skills to live with friends if they choose to do so, work with colleagues, and enjoy a social life.

Let's be clear, the consequence of not moving swiftly with these changes would be that our communal organisations meeting the needs and aspirations of people with a range of learning or physical disabilities would find it difficult to acquire essential funding to continue to do so and many individuals would remain lonely.

This is such a pivotal time in the way we care

There are, of course, numerous organisations outside of the Jewish community that provide viable options. However, it is clear that at times of greatest need, the vast majority of us instinctively, and quite understandably, turn inward, looking for the comfort that comes from a Jewish provider. Any lag in our comprehension of the reforms will make us unreliable partners for the local authorities, and therefore mean we effectively cut ourselves off from our own community.

Take just one area that the Care Act emphasises. The need to find ways, where possible, to prevent people from getting worse, and from requiring increased support further down the line.

This inevitably calls for far-sighted measures that intervene at the earliest stages, especially important given that, under the new law, only those with the greatest needs will receive funding.

Those deemed ineligible for care and left unsupported could, as time goes on, require more support as a result of their needs not being met, eventually coming at greater cost to the taxpayer. This calls for real creativity and the development of new types of services that reduce and prevent problems before they arise. Are we ready to do this?

Fortunately, we have a strong track record when it comes to preparing ourselves for once-in-a-generation changes. Prior to the Education Act 1870, the first piece of legislation dealing with the provision of education in Britain, the Jewish community was already educating its young people.

By the time the National Assistance Act 1948 came into force, the community had welfare boards, housing associations and provided support for vulnerable children and adults. However, we would be deeply unwise to take for granted our readiness to embrace this latest set of changes.

Indeed, there is a tremendous opportunity here for us to make lasting improvements to our services. As a community, we should internalise the demands placed on us by the new legal framework, and adapt how we operate. By working in partnership with the local authorities, and expecting to be paid on the basis of the results we achieve, we can continue to transform lives.

We can take the lead nationally and, in so doing, meet our own needs long into the future. The inescapable truth is that most of us will, at one point or another, require some form of care during our lives.

When this happens, we will want there to be one of our fine organisations at hand, ready to help. This is no time to drop the ball.

March 26, 2015 14:21

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