Business as usual is no longer an option

During the last few weeks of December 2017, we have witnessed increased media coverage and reports being launched, which highlight the major social care challenges we face; “How do we care for our vulnerable and older people in society?”

The authors of the most recent report commissioned by the Department of Health are correct, “Maintaining the status quo is not an option....... it is a challenge which must be tackled, if the total collapse of the system is to be avoided”.

Bryson welcomes the ‘Power to People’ report and its 15 proposals are closely aligned with our own Bryson manifesto ‘Asks’.  Put simply, if social care was a patient it needs major surgery and resuscitation.  However, what seems to be missing from this debate is that it makes sound economic sense to invest in solving this problem.  What we need now is action – no more talking and no more Reports.

The Adult Social Care sector makes a vital contribution to the NI economy and wider society.  In the recent Northern Ireland Social Care Council Report the sector employs over 100,000 people and produces £821million in Gross Value Added.  This is a sector which is growing and will experience further growth to meet emerging demand as our population ages.  Currently, Bryson employ over 350 staff in our care division out of a total Bryson staff of 750 and we are recruiting a further 70 social care workers in the Strabane area, where there is a high level of unemployment.   BBC News last week reported that the UK has a greater number of over 70 year old people than ever before.  And, over the next decade, the proportion of NI’s population over 65 years old is expected to increase to 20%, up by 5% points.  We have a social care crisis and the opportunity to generate new jobs is evident; it’s not that difficult to join up the economic ‘dots’.

As highlighted in Bryson’s Manifesto ‘Business as usual is no longer an option’ – we must develop new forms of ‘Social’ business models. They need to be built on partnerships with the public sector, which embrace co-design and co-production to create a new sustainable social care system offering higher value jobs and careers. 

We need our politicians to create, through better investment, a person-centred social care market targeted on delivering the best outcomes for service users and their families.  If we do this well, it’s not only a social good but it’s a ‘must-do’ for our economic growth. We will generate greater numbers of better paid jobs; reduce our costs for unnecessary residential and hospital care but also contribute to improving productivity, enabling family members to continue with their work and careers. 

We welcome opening the market up to self-directed support in order to empower people to make their own choices, leading to greater service innovation and new social investment models, such as Social Impact Bonds.  The UK has many examples of using bonds and we in Bryson have been encouraging Government to pilot in Northern Ireland with no success to date.

If we can ‘flip’ over our view of this as a social care problem we have a wonderful opportunity to realise real economic growth in this sector and create thousands of new local jobs, reducing long term unemployment and economic inactivity.  However, we must be honest; to date we have diminished many social care jobs through low pay, because that’s how it is commissioned.  But, we need to recognise and reward hard working staff and make this an attractive career that they can be proud to be part of; reward them appropriately; invest in them and broaden their skills. 

Having a highly skilled local staff supporting people in their homes has major benefits and savings potential to the wider health service e.g. keeping people out of hospital or care homes.  Through intelligent service commissioning and flexible ‘light touch’ procurement Government has the power to do things differently; set minimum salary levels for care workers using the savings realised across the wider health service to fund this. Supporting families and carers is the unseen side of the social care world.  Without good social care provision, family members have to give up jobs, education and training, to support their loved one, which effects wider society.  We need Government to wake up to the potential and impact of the Adult Social Care Sector and its workforce, in generating economic growth, contributing to reducing economic inactivity and improving N Ireland’s productivity.

In conclusion, we welcome the spotlight on this vitally important area and highlight Bryson’s commitment to be part of the solution.  We don’t need any more reports; we need action and change to build better futures for us all.

This blog was written by CEO John McMullan and printed by the Newsletter on the  (19th December 2017)

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