Better Lives

Helen HollandToday’s guest blog is from Cllr Helen Holland, cabinet member for Adult Social Care.

The ‘crisis in Social Care’ is well-documented, and you can hardly see any news item without reference to it – the ageing population, the complex needs of an older population, delayed discharges and transfers of care from hospital, the impact of Brexit on the care workforce… the list goes on, and it would be easy to feel that there is little we can do to influence this.

The report I took to Cabinet today on ‘Better Lives’ shows how we’re tackling these issues – and more – in a comprehensive programme, not just papering over the cracks, but systematically transforming and improving the way care is delivered in Bristol.

I have been leading the Adult Social Care portfolio for just over a year now, and have spent much of that time fact-finding by visiting a whole range of projects and providers, partners, voluntary sector and charitable organisations, the two Health Trusts, hearing from families and carers, those who support them, training organisations, our own staff and many more.

Those visits have taught me a lot, and there are some common themes from them. First is the absolute dedication of staff in organisations large and small to do the right thing. They want to do their best by the people they care for, and regularly go the extra mile. They can often see how we could do things better, where waste is, and where bureaucracy sometimes gets in the way of the right solution. We’re open to those messages.

Secondly, people want to know that appropriate care will be available when it’s needed. This principle is at the heart of our three-tier model, where tier one is ‘help to help yourself’. This means moving towards a much more person-centred approach, with a detailed conversation finding out what the person really needs – maybe some help with shopping or cooking, or attending a community group like Men In Sheds or Knit and Natter, to help address loneliness and isolation. All of these may well prolong the length of time that someone can live in their own home – which is almost always preferred by them and their families.

Historically, Bristol relied on the use of residential care much more than our comparator cities. This is a very expensive approach, so strengthening the community offer (‘social prescribing’) and stabilising the home care market, including raising the hourly rate we pay, is already beginning to pay off in reducing admissions to residential homes.

The third theme is that all of these organisations often struggle with recruitment, training and retention. They invest in training staff, who then might move on, and there are few common standards amongst the different providers. We’re actively involved in the Proud to Care campaign, along with a wide range of care providers, because we want to show the benefits and rewards of care work and what a positive career choice it can be. With an ageing population, there is always going to be a need for a skilled and compassionate care workforce.

There is so much more in ‘Better Lives’, clearly stating our Labour administration’s commitment to doing our best to provide decent care for people to be able to live independently. Please take a look and let me know what you think.

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