Social care needs better data and an identity

Social care reform will stall if people don't understand the sector's function

Sally Warren and Greg Allen
19th October 2020 about a 3 minute read

Among the biggest challenges facing the social care sector is how to forge an identity so that more people understand what it does. It also needs much better data, according to Sally Warren, director of policy at the King’s Fund.

She was speaking to Greg Allen, chief executive of Future Care Capital, in the latest in his series of online interviews with leaders in the sector. 

Ms Warren said that political leaders have been saying people should not have to sell their house to pay for care since the mid-90s. 

But generations of politicians have “failed to grasp that nettle” causing multiple problems for the sector.

“What Covid has changed is it has brought into public consciousness how important, and how hard, social care work is.

Staff not paid enough

“But too often it’s just seen as a minimum wage function, though it really is a highly skilled role and the people are not paid enough.”

She welcomed Future Care Capital’s Care Labs concept which aims to seek alternative ways to improve care provision.

“The Care Labs idea is reflecting the fact that our health and our quality of life is much more than the treatment of sickness…. 

“But that ends up creating quite a complicated view of ‘what is social care?’ And the public don’t understand what social care is. 

“They think it’s part of the NHS which is one of the reasons it’s really hard to get reform over the line…. Social care will never succeed by itself. It must be part of a wider network of support. But it does need an identity.”

Pandemic accelerating change

Greg Allen said FCC had done alot of work on how to gain insight and use data to look at the subtle nuances of care at local level. 

He also noted that technology looked set to play a big part in the future “bridging the skills gap, the resources gap and the capacity gaps”. Meanwhile the pandemic looked set to be a great accelerator for change. 

Ms Warren said that while that was true we are also seeing the longer term health and mental health consequences of people being in lockdown, often reluctant to engage with health care professionals.

“As we move into ‘recovery’ or ‘reset’ we need to make sure these issues are not neglected as we focus on the shiny new things that we want to keep.”

The ‘NHS has good data’ myth

On the issue of data she said the preconception was that health has “good data.” 

“What I’d say is we have good data about hospitals, we have pretty decent data about some aspects of primary care activity. 

“But we have very bad data about community health and not that brilliant data about mental health… It’s considerably better than the data we have in social care, but there are gaps.

“This means to a certain extent policy makers are blind when they’re making policy…. about services that cost £20billion a year!”