Residential care. Can we re-brand it along with social care?
A long-delayed green paper on the future of social care challenges us to rethink what we mean by a ‘care market’. The Care Act was the marker for change, with personalised and self-directed care and support enshrined in legislation for the first time but there remain major challenges ahead. The policy shift to personal budgets and support in family homes and communities has raised the debate, and not always in a positive way, about personalisation and the role of residential care, particularly for elderly people.
Personalisation has created a very diverse care market – ranging from home-care through to retirement communities, collaboratives, supported living, shared lives and of course residential care.
Commissioning has also changed. My disabled son has a personal budget my husband is a self-funder and opted for residential care, as did my mother before him.
But, as Professor Paul Burstow said when launching his Commission on Residential Care (2014)[i], ‘Rebranding residential care as part of a spectrum of housing options with care is a pre-requisite for delivering the 2lst century care system that we all want to see’.
I see ‘rebranding’ as the biggest opportunity – and challenge – for a quality care market! Because of the historical separation between health and social care, social ‘services’ are all too often seen as a mark of failure; TLAP and others have proved this wrong but their message about personalising all forms of support has not gone wide enough despite our knowledge that personalisation is possible in residential services [ii]. I never forget my mother’s delight in once again playing the piano (a skill that survived her dementia) to the local playgroup which visited her care home once a week.
Thinking of the future, I hope we can ‘rebrand’ not only residential care but also social care itself. In France they talk about ‘services familiales’; a recognition that care support and housing can change lives and that working in the care sector is valued occupation.
The time has come for genuine co-production across all care settings and of course a big debate with the wider public about what support they may need as they age and confront major life changes.