What do Stevie Wonder and social care reform have in common?

Clenton Farquharson, TLAP Chair and member of the Social Care Future Inquiry ‘Whose Social Care is it Anyway?’ talks about building a unified vision for social care and the influence of Stevie Wonder. 

"We all want to live in the place we call home with the people and things that we love, in communities where we look out for one another, doing things that matter to us” Social Care Future’s vision

Stevie Wonder is part of my life’s soundtrack and one of my heroes. As well as being a great songster he is a serious social commentator. His 1973 album Innervisions has it all for me: pure love (Golden Lady); the calling out of systemic racism and inequality (Living in the City); and a raging commentary on American politics at the time (He’s Misstra Know-it- All). So, what has my admiration of Stevie Wonder got to do with social care, I hear you say? Well, quite something.

A people-led inquiry into social care

The Social Care Future (SCF) Spring Gathering sees the launch of the first report from the inquiry (opens new window)Whose Social Care is it Anyway?’ It has been a privilege to be part of this, working alongside other people drawing on care and support, unpaid carers, and people with lived experience such as Sally Percival and Isaac Samuels from TLAP’s National Co-Production Advisory Group and Anna Severwright, the inquiry convenor.

The report findings emerge from our own experiences and the views of over 500 people who have taken part in this people-led inquiry into social care. Much of what we have heard has been not great, with people often feeling poorly served. But it has not been a great big whinge fest or exercise in like minded ‘group think’. We have challenged ourselves, but we have also challenged the view that social care is broken, so all that must be done to fix it is spend more money. This is a system perspective, not a human perspective. Whilst investment is most certainly required - both now and in the longer term – the report points to those areas that matter most to people, and where the balance of investment in both time and money should go.

A vision must be owned – an 'innervision'

What's needed is to renew what social care stands for and how it is organised. That’s where the SCF vision comes in, for which there is now a building unity. It gives us hope and ambition but, a vision must be owned if it is to be a real ‘game-changer’. For me, this means two things. Firstly, people need to embrace the vision for themselves. Psychologists call this internalisation, when a person changes both their public behaviours and their private beliefs, but I much prefer Stevie’s idea of Innervisions. If we own it, individually and collectively, we are in the right place to start making it happen.

A vision must also galvanise action towards a set of achievable goals. This is not about having a PRINCE project plan complete with Gantt chart, more that we need a map to help navigate our journey, the distance to travel, and an indication of the terrain to be negotiated. Without a sense of where we are headed, we are simply relying on currents to wash us up on the right shore. That’s leaving too much chance. So, what is good is that the inquiry has identified five key areas of change:

  1. Communities where everyone belongs
  2. Living in the place we call home
  3. Leading the lives, we want to live
  4. More resources, better used
  5. Sharing power as equals

Serious ‘asks’ for councils

From these we have developed some serious ‘asks’ of people and organisations, particularly councils, but the map does come with landmarks. There are helpful illustrations from places that are already making progress together with some sources that can help. As chair of the TLAP Board, I am pleased that these include a number of TLAP resources. I am particularly pleased that a strong link is made with Making it Real (opens new window) which sets out what good personalised care and support looks like.

One of the key asks we make is that council and support provider leaders connect the SCF vision which represents a North Star, difficult to see at the moment, but a star we must not lose sight of, with use of Making it Real. This connection will allow strategy and practice to be guided by the vision while using Making it Real to co-productively self-assess and then plan the detailed action needed to shift towards it.

Playing our part to change the system 

I have been greatly encouraged that the West Midlands regional ADASS branch (opens new window) has recently signed up to Making it Real (opens new window) and made a public commitment to adopt greater coproduction in their work. Doncaster Council is also embracing both the SCF vision and MiR as a means to move them closer to the vision, through working in coproduction, using it to work out what’s working well and not working and plan action. This is how we will begin to get real movement.

We all need to play our part to change the system and we all need to recognise and use our power to achieve this. If you cannot be at the Social Care Future gathering I would encourage you to get hold of the report, take the time to read it, share it and work out what you can do to take the vision, and the five areas of change forward. Used in this way, more people will make the SCF vision their vision - an 'Innervision' as Stevie would say.

Biography and more blogs by Clenton Farquharson

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