A blog entry by Dr Kelly Davidge, Sustainable Care Programme Manager
It was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to hear from and talk to carers, service providers and practitioners in the care arena, and I was really excited to attend even though my day started with the 6.25am train! The conference, chaired by Public Services Editor at the Guardian David Brindle, started with an opening keynote from the Minister of State for Care Caroline Dinenage MP, who spoke about what the government have done in the past year for carers, including the recently announced Carers Innovation Fund and the Carers Action Plan, flagging up an upcoming report on the progress during its first year. Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England, spoke about her priorities; her comments on retention of the workforce and flexible working link with research in our programme led by Professors Jason Heyes and Janet Fast– Combining work and care– looking into, among other things, what constitutes good workplace support for carers in employment. Helen Walker, CEO of Carers UK, then introduced us to some key results from the Carers UK annual survey State of Caring. You can read the full report on their website.
During the rest of the day, we heard from a number of people who are working ‘at the coal face’ and I really enjoyed listening to their stories, especially ‘carers in conversation’, where we heard from two carers about the pressures they face every day, and the poster presentations, focusing on about recent innovations in support for carers. I was interested in how seemingly simple changes can really make a difference: for example, implementing free car parking and carers lanyards at hospitals in Torbay and South Devon, and n-compass northwest who presented their Carers GP Enhanced Offer pilot scheme in Rochdale.
In his afternoon plenary, Simon Bottery from the King’s Fund was asked to be positive about the future of caring- and he was! Although the elephant in the room (the much anticipated social care Green Paper) has been gestating for longer than an actual elephant, social care and the issues surrounding it are gaining traction: from the recent Panorama programmes to reports from the House of Lords, ADASS and Pensions Policy Institute (to name a few), it is evident that the public, think tanks, policy makers and others are talking about social care and importantly, thinking about how we can find and fund solutions.
Finally, I’d like to finish with a comment from Carers UK Vice President Dame Philippa Russell- we need to change the narrative on care and start celebrating the wonderful relationships, support and impact that carers have on those they care for. As Professor Catherine Needham concluded: Panorama was supposed to be about money but really it was about relationships.