A blog entry by Dr Kelly Davidge

Following the announcement of a General Election in the UK on 12 December 2019, Sustainable Care programme partners Carers UK and Care England have both published ‘manifestos’ setting out their visions for social care. In a recent SMF podcast and panel, Sustainable Care PI Professor Sue Yeandle set out her own vision for a future in which we can provide the support for caring that a modern society needs and can be proud of the caring society we have created. Sue believes that, to achieve the objectives of legislation on care across the UK, in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, increased resources must be made available so that all who need it can access care at home, or in a residential facility where required, and carers get adequate help. Modern families living complex lives need more flexibility, she argues, and at times of stress need more support to manage caring alongside work, other family responsibilities and the pressures of everyday life.

Kelly Davidge

Dr Kelly Davidge,
Sustainable Care Programme Manager

What do our partners say?

Carers UK is a support network and movement for change for carers, and the UK’s only national membership charity for carers. It calls for ‘a new social contract between carers, public services, employers, and wider society’ to achieve its vision of ‘a society that respects, values, and supports carers’. It says carers need to be placed at the heart of a sustainable social care system that is well funded and sufficiently resourced, and calls for both new actions to ensure the NHS recognises, values and supports carers and a commitment within the Treasury to ensure carers do not suffer financial hardship because of caring. Carers UK wants more funding for carers’ breaks, better support for working carers, and a new cross-government strategy to supports carers. It is also asking the next Government to promote public awareness of carers and to review the Equality Act 2010, with the aim of adding caring to the other ‘protected characteristics’ it covers.

Care England is the leading representative body for small, medium and large care providers in England. Its ‘Manifesto for the future’ calls for an immediate £4 billion to secure the short-term viability of the adult social care system, followed by ‘a longer term plan to ensure the future sustainability of the sector’. Arguing that ‘the moment has passed’ for further consultation, and that ‘a mixed economy is … the best means of ensuring quality care’, it calls for increased investment in the system and in the training and upskilling of care staff, incentives for care providers to provide technology-enabled care and easier recruitment of staff from overseas. Among other ‘asks’, it also calls for ‘the creation of one cross-sector training and support body; Skills for Delivery’ and ‘zero-rated VAT for all independent care services’.

Care England

Sustainable Care researchers are working to inform agendas like these. Our Combining Work and Care team, with partner Employers for Carers, is working with stakeholders to define what constitutes good workplace support for carers in employment. PI Sue Yeandle’s 2017 report Work-care reconciliation policy: Legislation in policy context in eight countries (prepared for the German Ministry for Families, Older People, Women and Youth) outlined how eight countries support working carers. Our team is now working with multiple international partners to examine details of statutory care leave schemes in Japan, Germany and several other countries: how are these schemes designed and funded and what impact have they had? This team is also examining the impact of care leave schemes provided voluntarily by some UK businesses.

Our teams investigating ‘care systems’ are considering how care systems across the UK could be made more sustainable. We are studying care in all four UK nations asking: How does each fund and deliver adult social care? What can we learn by comparing and contrasting different systems? Our team working on the costs and contributions of care is exploring data on the public and private costs of our care systems, and the contributions made, and costs incurred, by care users and the unpaid carers on whom they heavily rely. We are also exploring the role technology can play in making care and caring sustainable. Our Innovation Fellow Dr Matthew Lariviere, in a recent post, Innovation in social care- considerations for implementation and uptake of future care technology, warns that while ‘disruptive innovations’ may help our social care systems, these need to be implemented in ways that benefit all users and stakeholders.

Within our ‘care work and relationships’ theme, we are studying the delivery of care at home, focusing on the potential of innovative home care models to foster sustainable care relationships. Researcher Cate Goodlad reflected on the 2019 Transforming Care conference, the ethics of creating good care jobs and what we can learn from how other countries are managing challenges in social care. Innovation Fellow Dr Karla Zimpel-Leal’s work focuses on emergent Business Models in Home Care, with the aim of advancing innovation and strengthening skills development in the home care sector.

Our team investigating migrant care workers in the UK is looking at how policy changes in 2018-20 are affecting the roles, recruitment and status of migrant home care workers in UK, and have written about the December 2018 White Paper on the UK’s future skills-based immigration system. Recently, researcher Magda Lőrinc reflected that the UK has become ‘trapped in the Brexit limbo’, linking current issues with research in our research on Care ‘In’ and ‘Out of’ Place, which explores how people born outside the UK experience ageing in this country, and investigates their wellbeing, care needs and available support.

Our overarching theoretical objective is to advance understanding of how wellbeing outcomes can be achieved for care users, their families / carers and paid care workers. In work led by Professor Allister McGregor, we will be discussing in coming months how social care arrangements can be made sustainable for the future with policymakers and other experts. We aspire to provoke new thinking about scalable, long-term solutions so that debate can move on from the ‘crisis’ discourse of today, and focus on the systems – and their essential pillars and building blocks – needed to create a future in which we can celebrate the genuine achievement of a caring society.

Dr Kelly Davidge

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