Activism

Social care: The third way...

The Tories' social care plans played a big part in their election woes, yet charities agree that the care system faces a funding crisis. Innovative solutions are coming from the third sector

Social care

Social care became a surprisingly hot topic of discussion during the general election. The subject has been almost completely neglected in recent years but Prime Minister Theresa May ensured it was pushed into the spotlight when her party pledged a radical shake-up of the social care system.

The Tory manifesto outlined a plan for people receiving care at home to have their housing wealth taken into account when calculating charges, in the same way permanent residents of care homes currently do. May was forced during the campaign to promise an “absolute limit” on the amount people would have to pay for the costs of their care, following a barrage of negative headlines.

Despite the brouhaha, all the leading charities in the sector agree: Britain’s care system faces a funding crisis, one that cannot be ignored much longer. An ageing population means demand for care is increasing. And the funding for the care that local authorities provide for people in their own home has been cut, falling 17 per cent since 2010.

Local authority funding for care provision in the home has fallen 17% since 2010

If many councils are having to do more with less, they would be wise to look at some of the innovative and ambitious work of care organisations in the third sector.

Charities, social enterprises and social businesses are developing new ways to offer a more personalised, flexible form of care at home, allowing many older people and adults with disabilities to choose what kind of care they need while living more independent lives.

Moving away from the one-size-fits-all approach, the Scottish homecare charity Cornerstone allows people with disabilities and other support needs to personalise and tailor their own budget. The aim is to give them more choice and control over the regularity of nurses’ visits, help with cooking, cleaning and other services.

Partly inspired by the Dutch model of neighbourhood care, Cornerstone is introducing a new business model called Local Cornerstone, and is also introducing ‘self-organising’ teams of support staff. The model empowers staff, who best know the needs of the people in their community, to make local decisions focused on the needs of people they support.

“Organising our business into small, autonomous, community-based entities made up of a network of self-organised teams will ensure care continues to be truly person-centred,” says chief executive Edel Harris.

In the north east of England, the social enterprise Positive Support For You is offering a similar kind of person-centred support to adults in the area with learning disabilities, autistic spectrum conditions or mental ill-health, helping them live well in the community outside of institutional support.

Big Issue Invest, the social investment arm of The Big Issue Group, has helped finance the work of Cornerstone, Positive Support for You and other organisations delivering adult social care. In the past five years, Big Issue Invest has invested over £4m in these groups. “These organisations are filling a much-needed gap in service provision,” says James Salmon, investment director at Big Issue Invest. “They make sure people with a range of care needs are at the centre of deciding what kind of care they require. It helps give them every opportunity to lead fulfilling lives.”

In lean times every governing body becomes obsessed by money and the capacity to save it. But there are organisations out there thinking about the quality of care people receive, and how it might actually be improved. Ambition to make lives better, despite austerity. Imagine that.

  • Big Issue Invest is the social investment arm of The Big Issue Group. Since 2005, Big Issue Invest has invested over £30m in more than 300 social ventures, including social care organisations, across the UK. In 2015-2016, Big Issue Invest directly made 60 investments totaling almost £10m

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