How to solve a problem like social care?

You will no doubt have noticed that the ‘social care crisis’ in England and Wales is playing out across our print and TV media.

This coverage focuses primarily on declining finances and staff shortages. However, we must remember that it is the quality of service, and thus the quality of life of those receiving care, which is at real risk.

While the situation in England and Wales offers something of a ‘worst-case scenario’ and warning to Scottish services, we cannot afford to be complacent and ignore the issues that are both evident and emerging here.

That’s why SCVO has produced two papers and that’s why we want to have conversations with you all too.

SCVO commissionedJo Armstrong to conduct a financial analysis of third sector organisations operating in and around social care.  Jo is an independent business economist and honorary professor at Glasgow University Business School, who also has great experience in our sector having served as a Trustee, Chair and Board Member in various third sector organisations involved in social care.

What did Jo find in her analysis? Well, nothing that makes for particularly easy reading!

Among her findings is that adult social care spending has seen its share of the total social work budget fall. Meanwhile, the number of those aged 75+ is set to grow by more than 40%, with the 85+ cohort to increase by almost 60%.

This is coupled with tightening finances for individual social care organisations. Jo found that just under three-quarters of the smallest Scottish-based charities have had to dip into their cash reserves to cover operating losses in at least one of the last three years. Considering SCVO state of the sector research found that 76% of third sector organisations expect the financial situation to worsen next year, this could become an ever more prevalent trend.

To accompany this financial analysis, SCVO has also produced a short discussion paper outlining some of the key policy and operational issues within the social care space. From fair work, to the imbalance between health and social care – the future of social care is a huge, and indeed hugely important, subject.

This isn’t just an issue for the third sector organisations directly involved in providing and delivering social care, this is an issue for the entire system of social care. That means the advocacy groups fighting for the rights of those with disabilities, the employability organisations working with disadvantaged groups, those small community organisations providing important local services and it’s about those organisations fighting for participation and voice too. We all have a stake in the social care system.

We don’t expect simple or single solutions to emerge, however our ambition is to promote a wide and engaging debate, informed by the knowledge that the current status quo is neither sustainable nor desirable.

I hope you will engage with the paper, and use it to generate discussions both within your organisations and more widely too. SCVO has included some discussion questions at the end of the paper, something of a ‘starter for ten’ to get these vital conversations started. We also hope to do some further engagement on this in due course, after all there is nothing like some face-to-face debate to solve a looming crisis!

If you have any questions or responses to share, please contact ruth.boyle@scvo.org.uk or john.downie@scvo.org.uk .