Looking ahead to 2011


I’m almost reluctant to write up my thoughts for the coming year and it is a battle to contain my more pessimistic urges.  I wrote this post and sat on it for a while because it came across as too depressing.

I try to be as optimistic as I can in my day to day life. As even if optimism/pessimism make no difference on actual outcomes, at least I’ll go down happier if I think positive!

I’m finding it really hard to find much positive to say about my thoughts for 2011 though.

Cuts

That’s an easy theme. No doubt that it will be the main background through which 2011 is played politically both nationally and locally. In my personal and professional life.

As we turn increasingly into a fire-fighting, crisis management service there will be less, if any, space for preventative work. The government and the local authority won’t headline this because it goes against every piece of evidence about long-term savings but the savagery of the cuts will affect those who just come in below the ‘life or death’ bandings.

Protests

Again, this is barely a prediction. Protests and rallies have already been called. They will be increasingly well-attended. I fully intend to participate myself. As people realise their actual tax credits decrease their real income, there will be a wider anger directed towards the government and the poor political process that has served us so badly.

Care Funding

Yes, the next commission will report. It will benefit most those who have the most to lose. Poor people who might have to sell the houses that they own to pay for the care that costs a significant amount of money. Inheritances will be preserved. What that does to the quality and support for those that don’t have, well, we’ll see. I’ve tried being positive, now I’m just cynical. The government have an agenda to protect their own political classes. They have no desire whatsoever to produce a more equitable scheme of funding. No political party does – which is why these consultations have dragged on for so long.

‘Big Society’

Big Society will be discussed and debated. And will be shown up for the sham that it is in the face of funding being withdrawn from voluntary organisations. It will be an opportunity for private enterprise to ‘invest’ in communities. Youth centres  sponsored by McDonalds. Libraries sponsored by BP.

Social Work

The College of Social Work comes into formal existence this year. It has already made some kind of deal with Unison for union membership. I expect it will merge with BASW (British Association of Social Workers) too. I hope so anyway. It will continue to be run by academics, managers and retired social workers because no-one on the ‘front line’ will have any time to be involved in the processes and committee upon committee will be attended by professional ‘consultants’ who may once have been social workers but remain so far removed from actual client contact that they will have no idea about whom they allege to speak for.

I remain hopeful that there will be some kind of positive outcome.

 

They’ll be more scandals, more appalling practice and more horrified ‘Daily Mail’ stories. No interest whatsoever will be shown in any of the good work that is done every day. Again and again.

 

Social Media

This is a new one for me. Twitter become much more of a key network for me. I love it for so many reasons but mostly because it gives me more of a character than just a blog does. I love some of the conversations that I’ve been able to have with people whom I would never have had the opportunity with engaging with on any other forum.  Local authorities are increasingly involving themselves in micro-blogging. I’m surprised that there is less in terms of standard blogging as far as government is concerned. It remains the domain generally of individuals and local politicians rather than local officials on behalf of the organisation for whom they work rather than as individuals.

If I really knew what what happen in this sphere, I’d make a fortune but in the meantime I’ll say that there will be more online consultations and more discussion and debate. And more blogs,  podcasts and debates which involve users and carers. It’s a great opportunity and could potentially increase voices sometimes lost in the political process.

NHS

Efficiency savings. Ha. Real growth in spending. Ha. We are losing services hand over fist and the government is able to get away with this kind of whitewash. It will continue and services will struggle.  I’ll have to move on from this subject because it really does fill me with fear just thinking about it too much.

And some more local predictions for me and my team

Reconfiguration

Yes, it’s coming. Another one. I think the third now in just over 2 years but this one is a big one and it’s going to affect not only our team but the entire Trust. Changes have already started and it’ll be the main theme for the year as jobs are lost and downgraded. More staff leave through the so-called ‘natural wastage’ and aren’t replaced.  It seems there may be a change in the way the AMHP service is arranged locally as well. I try to ignore rumours and whisperings and let all the possible plans go over my head somewhat until anything is confirmed.

I’m lucky in the sense that I genuinely love my job. I was talking about it to a colleague yesterday who asked me if I was looking for other jobs and I honestly don’t think I could work for a better team with better managers/consultants/colleagues etc. That’s a pretty special place to be and while I couldn’t, hand on heart, say I love the work I do every day, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. In my dreams when I win the lottery, I still work, just part-time!

Training

I hope to take another student social worker on this year. I might look into possibilities of being an off-site practice teacher though as it was a real struggle with workloads to manage having a student in the team. Of course, it didn’t particularly help that I needed to go into hospital the last time I had a student.  I also worry a little that the lack of staff in the team might lead to managers seeking to push additional work towards a student.  The local authority training budgets have been slashed so I don’t think I’ll be able to continue with the Higher Specialist Award in Practice Education (which is my longer term goal.. ) this year or probably for the next few years as quite rightly any funding should be focussed on those who have not accessed training and if there’s one thing I have been doing of late, it is accessing any training available.

Blog

One time in particular I was very close to closing this blog down. I even set up a parallel non-related one as a kind of outlet to keep me going and give me something to write about in the expectation that I would stop writing about work-related things. Anonymity can be a burden at times.  It was just a little too hard to completely let go. I would say it’s about 50/50 as to whether I’m around next year to reflect on these predictions at all. I do enjoy writing though and sharing my thoughts about issues as they arise. I hope to continue that whether published or not. It really does help me with my self-reflection and maintaining my interest and connection with current affairs.

I don’t really stick to resolutions but I do want to read and participate more widely in the blogging communities. I was better at it last year and this year have become more insular due to time and health mostly but I want to re-engage more over the next year.

And I have a suspicion that when I do write, it will be a lot more political in tone which leads to..

 

Social Action

One of my resolutions last year was to be more involved in Unison and BASW, seeing as I pay the subs. This year, I’m particularly going to focus on Unison – the issues and general themes of cuts, cuts and more cuts go far beyond social work specifically. This year I also attended an event put on by SWAN (Social Work Action Network) and it really got me fired up. I hope to go to more of their events. I really want this government to know how much their cuts are hurting and whom they are hurting. I find the injustice in the focus of the cuts and the ‘blame’ narrative sickening. I feel I have to push against it at every angle. I can see myself getting far more involved politically on  many levels.

There is a lot to fight for.

 

And I hope there is not even one single day of sickness that I take to make up for last year (yes, I feel unnecessarily guilty.. ).

Finally, I hope that everyone has a hopeful and positive year ahead. It won’t be easy but that’s why it needs more effort than ever before.
Fireworks #1

Happy New Year.

4 thoughts on “Looking ahead to 2011

  1. For 20 years up to 2009 I was involved in Social Care as a councillor, for much of that time as chairman and executive member.

    I despair at the goverments lack of understanding of Social Care.
    The first announcement on funding was that NHS funding would be protected, but social care would have to suffer the same cuts as the rest of local government funding. This showed a total disregard of the pressures that social care was suffering. We then had the announcement of an extra £10bn for social care and £10bn for the Social Care NHS interface. Finally there was the announcement of additional funding for respite care. This all shows that the government had no understanding of Social Care.

    Regarding the Commission consulting on the future funding of social care, I regard this as desirable. It will however be sometime before a new funding system can be introduced. The Commission has to report, then the government has to consider what parts of the report they wish to adopt. Punlic consultation will follow, the goverment will produce a bill and even when the bill is passed there will be further delays training staff and putting new systems in place. 2013?

    At the end of it all I believe that property values will still have to be taken into account due to the high level of demand. Meanwhile lets kick it into the long grass, appears to be the attitude. We have known for many years what effect demographics would have on the demand for services and yet all political parties have chosen to ignore the situation. In March 05 I wrote a paper for members of the then Social Services Committee entitled;
    “Not So Much a Crisis, More a Way of Life
    Developing a Corporate Approach to Older People” The future trends were all too clear even then.

    Whilst many councils maintain that they are providing for both Substantial and Critical, it appears clear to me, that within these two categories the criteria have been raised over a period of time.

    I have been working with a Memory Cafe of around 60 people, 30 clients and 30 carers. I cannot find more than 2 or 3 who are receiving practical support from Social Care and yet, we have carers, themselves over 80, with their own health problems, high blood pressure, diabetes etc, who are caring 24/7 without any help. Is this really protecting the vulnerable? There appears to be a very noticeable increase in the number organizations offering advise, but little practical help is available.
    I am sure readers will be familiar with this extract from:
    A Vision for Adult Social Care:
    Preventative services to maintain and restore independence
    3.9 When people develop care and support needs, our first priority should be to restore an individual’s independence and autonomy. With the solid basis provided in the Spending Review for social care, there is no reason for councils to restrict support to those with the most intensive needs. This not only serves local people poorly, it is a false economy. 3.10 Carers are the first line of prevention. Their support often stops problems from escalating to the point where more intensive packages of support become necessary. But carers need to be properly identified and supported. Councils should recognise the value of offering a range of personalised support for carers to help prevent the escalation of needs that fall on statutory services.

    This is what we would all wish but is it a reality? At the introduction of Comunity Care after 2 pilots we went for an early intervention policy. creating the post of Case Coordinators to allow the maximum number of people to be assessed and leaving social workers to get on with their other work. I do not think that this approach is possible at the present time. We do need a better assessment of peoples needs than a three minute phone call. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that very few people express their real concerns initially.
    Can departments who are only covering Substantial and Critical really also provide the support services described?
    Richard Jones in his address to the November Conference pointed towards innovative ways of working and there is much good work going on around the country. However with all the innovations, co-operation with Health, comunity initiatives there will be a shortfall in funding in the not too distant future. In my experience local initiative are based around 1 or 2 enthusiastic and dedicated people. This tends to lead to uneven levels of support in different area. Area A has good support for dementia but there is little for the physically disabled, but in Area B the reverse is the case.

    Whilst Richard Jones in his address does not go as far as saying that new ways of working, community involvement will not solve our long term concerns I believe it is implicit in what he said.
    Mike Nicholls

    • Thanks so much for that, Mike. While it’s comforting to know people who are involved in social care at committee levels take an interest and know about the difficulties we face ‘on the coalface’ it is inevitable that those further removed will have no interest whatsoever unless they are dealing with these matters on a personal basis.
      I agree about the shortfalls in funding. It seems obvious to everyone who is anywhere near the sector. We have had years of talk about ‘zero-cost’ changes but as I said earlier, we are now way, way beyond that. No-one really wants to confront the inevitable.
      I try and remain hopeful just because it isn’t in my nature to be otherwise but it is very tough at the moment.

  2. maybe it will just have to be one of them years where you just hope for the best and cross our fingers and hope for the best and drive on and push ourselves to the limit

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