This year sees a year like no other in the world of social care. A year that all we know and base our decisions on will be banished to the text books of social care history. We shouldn’t under estimate that, as social workers we will be seeing history in the making. History that could enhance, value and support the professional roles that we strive to deliver.
Who remembers those colleagues who could recite the National Assistance Act 1948 or those that worked as MHOs under the 59 mental health Act. We all have colleagues who were there at the dawn of the Community Care & NHS Act 1990 and there are even a few wise professionals who saw the publication of the Seebohm report that paved the way for the idea and implementation of modern social services. A report that was in part commissioned following a number of critical investigations and reports in to institutions and the poor treatment of inpatients.
Those moments and many others that part defined the development of our professional roles are soon to disappear in the shadow of the ‘new kid on the bloc’, The Care Act 2014. Soon we will be able to say that we were the professionals that helped kick-start the new wave of social care and helped shape the way that future social workers will be practicing. A merging of social work practice, values and ethics with statute.
As social care practitioners we will all recognise the ethos and nature of this act. It may remind us of days gone by and the practice and values we should hold dear, and quite possibly you would be correct. But that’s the beauty of this new Act, it brings together the essence of what it is to be a social worker and embeds them in law. The ideas of personalisation, citizenship and the right to have control over one’s life, regardless of the difficulties we find ourselves in, have been driving social workers for many years. Disability rights groups fought for and designed the early models of personalisation and rights to well being in the 70s and early 80s. Concepts of community inclusion and equality were being drawn up in the late 60s yet it always felt like we had a long way to go. These models and theories remained a core part of our practice ethics and value base but never seemed to be the main driver to our work within previous Acts and the last ten years of ‘industrial’ social care delivery. Attempts to rectify this in law seemed clumsy and never fully delivered the aspiration of people and practitioners alike.
The Care Act however may finally help to start the change. The Care Act has ensured that the focus on the person, the individual, my family member or yours will be at the very heart of this legislation. In a recent Blog Lyn Romeo @LynRomeo_CSW reflected that “Getting a real voice for social work in the Care Act regulations and guidance has been a significant achievement, influencing policy development to reflect the value and contribution of social work….., ensuring that social workers are empowered to lead in helping identify and connect people to support, which can prevent or delay the need for further interventions.” This I think is true, sure there are bits and pieces, sections and statements that we will all take issue with but at it’s heart it shifts the idea of state control to shared opportunity
In this Act we see responsibilities of prevention and personalised care. A focus on well-being and strengths, not deficits and need. Social work can again ensure that support and care is based on the concepts of inclusion, equality and opportunity to thrive. Social work will be an intervention in its own right rather than a tool to access restricted decisions. We must again see the value of social practice and intervention as a partnership with people.
The Care Act could be a remarkable piece of law, one that for many is a light in a difficult time for social care. But the Act itself, its chapters and guides and even the statute it embeds will not guarantee the ideals it aspires too. The world will not look radically different when we turn up for work on the April 1st but we should feel the expectation. Implementation will take a huge amount of imagination, ambition, hard graft and resilience from us all. Social workers, who you are, the compassion you bring and the role you trained for will help make this happen. A new dawn of social care, an inclusive and personalised one could be in the making and one that we could say to the young practitioners of the future we had a hand in. If nothing else its going to be fun trying!