– A guest blog by Becca Gatherum, Policy & Communications Officer with Scottish Care
As most people involved in the health and social care of older people will know, the current policy and delivery landscape is both challenging and changing. April 2014 will see the implementation of the Social Care (Self-directed Support) (Scotland) Act, empowering service users to exert more choice and control over the services they receive and prompting services themselves to become more flexible and outcomes-focused in their delivery of care and support. Furthermore, we move towards the integration of health and social care statutory services only one year later and in preparation for this, third and independent sector providers must be fully involved in the planning and delivery of local services. Add to this the ongoing challenge of tackling negative public perceptions of some elderly care, a backdrop of diminishing financial resource, changing demographics towards an older population overall and recognition of the fact that the services we will require in the future are likely to be significantly different from those offered currently, and it is not hard to see how providers can become uncertain and anxious about what the future holds. As the independent sector provides 88% of care home places, 51% of home care hours and 41% of the social services workforce, it is important that these uncertainties are addressed.
This is where the Fit for the Future project offers an exciting opportunity for independent sector providers to be proactive in preparing for the future needs of Scotland’s older people and responding to identified national and local service delivery priorities. At the heart of making current and future policy and practice drivers a success, and improving outcomes for older people, is effective local joint commissioning. Fit for the Future will support providers to respond to these local plans as positively and proactively as possible. By looking both inwards at what a service delivers well currently and what it might do differently, and outwards as to what role it can play in the wider community, the project will support providers to maximise their engagement with the reshaping care of older people agenda. By working with the wider sector locally, we hope it will also enhance working and community relationships with both the public and professionals, and will boost internal and external confidence in a service’s ability to provide what people really want and need whilst remaining viable.
What is perhaps most exciting about this project is that it is not necessarily asking providers to make significant, sudden changes in a climate of austerity, where services can already struggle to alter delivery models and staff support mechanisms. Instead, it asks those involved in the care of older people to be more creative in their thinking about delivery, to involve more people in making decisions, to address what small, perhaps temporary changes could support them to overcome a barrier or challenge to creating an even more positive experience for service users and staff. It will be most interesting to follow how these new ways of thinking and doing manifest themselves locally, as differences in location, geography, service type and commissioning plans will all play a part in influencing outcomes and experiences of the project.
Scottish Care is also positive about how this project can support both those services and areas taking part and the sector more widely. By creating a ‘washing line’ style of learning resources, others can access whatever parts of the project they feel will be applicable or beneficial to their own services.
By supporting providers to address what works well in their care and support provision, what the barriers or challenges are to delivering this even more effectively, and to understand how overarching policies and initiatives can be made meaningful in small-scale ways, the project should build confidence: confidence amongst staff, service users and families that a service is catering for the wants and needs of its service users whilst remaining viable, confidence that a positive caring environment is being nurtured, confidence amongst local commissioners that the sector’s services can respond to plans and priorities, and confidence that the sector really is fit for the future.