The impact of Covid-19 on social care in Scotland

October 12, 2020

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James Fletcher, Director, ARC Scotland

In this guest blog, James Fletcher, Director ARC Scotland, responds to the Trust’s Guiding principles for an Enabling State, and considers how Covid-19 has accelerated change in social care in Scotland.

Adult social care has been in the headlines throughout the pandemic; its many front-line workers providing essential support to those people in our communities perceived to be most vulnerable and at risk.  ‘Clap for carers’ brought new levels of recognition, and once again politicians have brought forward measures to reform and review a system which was already perceived to struggle to cope with demand before the additional challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But what about the people who work in social care? How do they perceive the value of the work they do, and what are they learning as they flex and adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic?

The answers to these questions are perhaps not what you would expect.  Throughout the pandemic, ARC Scotland has facilitated regular meetings with groups of social care providers (from all sectors) in 9 local authority areas to provide mutual support, share learning and resources.  As these meetings progressed, we became increasingly surprised and interested by the consistency of the themes emerging in very different parts of Scotland.  Many of these pointed towards positive changes in long-running challenges experienced by those working in the sector during lockdown.

Also interesting is the striking similarities between what were learning and the 7 steps set out in the Carnegie UK Trust ‘Route Map to and Enabling State.  Put simply the instinctive response of local social care agencies to the crisis has been to put wellbeing at the centre (for supported people and front-line staff), give permission for people to be trusted and take control, and to work collaboratively in their communities in the best interests of the people they support.

At this point it is important to note that the organisations we connected with were mostly those who provide support for people with learning disabilities, autism and physical disabilities. The experiences of those providing help and support for the older population may be different.

To check our observations we conducted an on-line survey of social care workers in the areas we work. Over 600 people responded and we published the findings in ‘We’re all in this together: The impact of Covid-19 on the future of social care, a view from the workforce’.

Our findings point to new ways of working that can help inform longer-term and much needed changes in how social care is planned and delivered.  These changes will better recognise supported peoples gifts, strengths and resilience, re-affirm the core vision and purpose of social care, give more autonomy for people to work in flexible and responsive ways, encourage collaboration, and capitalise on the publics heightened awareness of the importance of the sector.

It is so important that the learning over this period helps to positively shape the future. This should be based on a real understanding of the conditions that enable holistic, collaborative and person-centred approaches to flourish- while removing the unnecessary barriers that get in the way.

Get in touch if you are interested: [email protected].

Over the remainder of 2020, the Carnegie UK Trust will publish learning from projects reflecting on changing practices in health and social care and changing relationships between communities and the public sector. Through these we will continue to consider what we can do to ‘build back for the better’ – and we invite others to contribute to this discussion.

James is the Director of ARC Scotland, a charity that improves knowledge, practice and policy for the benefit of people with learning disabilities and other additional support needs. His work involves leading networks that enable hundreds of practitioners, policy makers, supported people and carers to work together to solve problems and deliver person-centred support. These include the Scottish Transitions Forum, National Involvement Network and the Supporting Offenders with Learning Disabilities (SOLD) network. ARC Scotland is also a major provider of learning and development opportunities to Scotland’s health and social care workforce.