24 July 2017

Critical insights on adult social care

It’s a harsh fact of life, but we’re all getting older and there’s a very real chance that at some point in the future many of us will need support from the adult social care system in one way or another. For most people, this is likely to be a worrying thought, especially given the negative perspectives many of us have around social care thanks to the hard hitting headlines we see on an almost daily basis suggesting that adult social care is in crisis.

Only recently, the Care Quality Commission issued a worrying report claiming that one in four care homes are unsafe and a third are failing to provide safe levels of care. It’s no wonder people are concerned about what the future holds for them. Yet there are a host of community-based projects aimed at supporting the needs of the elderly, often preventing them from needing to enter the social care system at all. However, unfortunately, people aren’t always made aware of them.

In order to try and ascertain what those currently in the care system and those yet to experience it feel about the future of care, we recently embarked on an independent market research project, surveying the views of 2,000 people either in receipt of care, providing care to family members or those not yet in the system. This report provides critical insights for those responsible for adult social care at local authorities into what people want from adult social care in the future.

For those already in the care system the research indicated that although the majority (68%) are satisfied with the care services they currently receive, there’s clearly a need for improvement when it comes to certain aspects of the care and support services on offer with only 44% satisfied with their care provider, 41% with their residential care and only 33% with the respite care they are offered.

The need for better personalisation of social care was also highlighted in the research with, despite a long-standing personalisation agenda, only 41% agreeing that their care services were tailored to their needs. Two thirds of respondents want a more tailored, personal approach to the care they receive.

For those not already in receipt of care, many had grave concerns about the quality of care they are likely to receive in the future with 75% citing standard of care as their biggest concern, closely followed by the cost of care for 74% of respondents and 64% expressing concern about the impact of care on their future quality of life.

Interestingly, for those aged 65+, quality of life gave the most cause for concern for 85%, while for those in the 45-54 age bracket, the future cost of care worried them the most. In addition to their basic care needs being met, more than half of the research respondents wanted care providers to offer help with companionship in later life, while 56% of respondents (70% in the 55-64 age group) wanted care providers to help them maintain a sense of purpose as they get older. This suggests a need for a fundamental shift in how care is perceived by councils and providers in the market. The data suggests people want a marketplace that places ‘social’ at the heart of social care, supporting people to be active and valued in their own communities as well as their own homes.

In some cases, making community-based care and support channels more widely available has the potential to stop or delay people entering the formalised care system. For example, a regular visit to a lunch time club might make the world of difference to an elderly lady who struggles to cook for herself and wants companionship. This club may address loneliness as well as a hot meal and it’s this combination that may reduce the probability of her needing to rely on a more formal care arrangement. But sadly, all too often people just don’t know about these community-based services to take advantage of them.

For those respondents not yet in the care system, many admitted that they were open to new ideas and concepts on how their care needs could be better met.

Our respondents showed a real willingness to try new and alternative means of care but which would offer more freedom for recipients. The use of technology as an aid to care, was one of the new approaches suggested and over three quarters of respondents said they would be happy to trial it. The use of technology proved popular with the vast majority of respondents, with 88% saying they would welcome its use to give more independence; 87% would use it if it could help them control their own care; 87% were interested if it helped keep them safe; 84% thought technology could help keep them informed about the care options available to them; while 82% would use it if it meant they could stay at home for longer.

Overwhelmingly this research points to a need for change in the way adult social care is accessed, managed and delivered in the UK. It’s imperative that as people approach retirement age they have every confidence that their care needs will be met in a way that they’re happy with. This can only happen if people have better visibility of the social care and community based care and support options available to them and more insight into how care is managed and delivered. It’s time for local authority decision makers to find a better way to meet these needs and inform care recipients on the variety of options available to them so they don’t access the care system until they really need to.

However, worryingly, our research showed that local authorities have a rating of ‘no trust’ or ‘low trust’ by 71% by those cared for, so councils need to find a way to demonstrate a better understanding of the public and find a way to overcome this lack of trust. Equally, as well as moving focus to leveraging the community to help support people, they might tap into that community as a trusted channel to help inform people of the community based care and support options available to them locally, when they need them.

Reassuringly it would seem that people are resourceful, don’t expect (or even want) the council to intervene and are open to new ways of doing things. Perhaps councils need to put more trust in both the people and the communities they serve and remove barriers that hinder embracing the new and innovative ways of accessing, managing and receiving care that can give them the better outcomes they want.

Tony Pilkington, managing director, Younifi.

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