Lesson learned, lessons learned. We always hear about lessons learned. But are they really learned and acted upon? This important post reminds us that there is still much to do in gaining a higher priority for social care in the UK.
by Mark Ford
Just over a year ago, Panorama’s Crisis in Care documentaries were screened.
I’m in a new role now, but at that time heavily involved in promoting the films and before that supporting the crew as it spent ten months with our social care teams (I’ll be running a workshop about the experience at September’s Comms Unplugged event).
It was one of those rare and great occasions when it felt like being at the heart of something big. Something exciting and important that could actually make a difference. Panorama’s aim – to shed light on the massive pressures facing the sector and show the human stories and impossible decisions (for families and professionals) that come with those pressures.
Our aim – put the issue on the political and public agenda and kick-start some kind of cross-party work to finally reform social care, it’s funding and integration with health.
It generated national headlines, millions of viewers and questions in parliament, something had to give…
But twelve months on, where are we? Pretty much where we were when the films were broadcast, only now having drifted into the real-life dystopia of COVID-19 without a sniff of a long-promised Green Paper on social care reform. (And that’s not a political point, the social care siren has been sounding for many years and no administration or party has responded to it).
Nothing tangible has changed, except that a global pandemic has underlined what Crisis in Care had already shown us – social care is undervalued, underfunded and seemingly destined to always play second fiddle to the NHS (see funding, PPE, testing etc).
So, what next? Who knows, but history suggests there will be plenty of positive words and good intentions, but that social care will slowly drift off the radar or be eaten alive by the Brexit monster when it reawakens.
And you have to wonder how social care will fair in the inevitable post-COVID financial reckoning for local government?
With positivity in short supply, it’s a good time to focus on glimmers hope. Social care is headline news again, it’s slap-bang in the public and political consciousness.
When the last clap for carers happened, I was passing a care home and joined the crowd. Staff spontaneously came out to wave, take a bow and accept the applause and pan-bashing from a group of (I assume) strangers. It was a properly moving spectacle that would have been unimaginable six months ago, but versions of which will have been happening up and down the country. Social care has currency with the public like never before and maybe the COVID crisis can finish what Crisis in Care started and relaunch the idea of cross-party reform for the sector.
What can we do as communicators?
We can step up and make sure the plight of social care isn’t allowed to slip back into the shadows. No-one is better placed than us to do that.
Write blogs, encourage politicians to write blogs and lobby Ministers and MPs. Use your influence to make sure that as recovery plans are written, social care is writ large in them.
Keep it on the news agenda. Celebrate the successes and seek out the human stories about care that will be happening on your doorstep.
Share social media content. Care homes and providers have been quietly doing a magnificent job in keeping relatives and residents in touch with each other. Go to any care home’s Facebook page and you’ll find video content that will make you laugh, cry and remind you that although the doors are closed to visitors, fantastic work is going on behind them.
Don’t let the momentum be lost again. Sooner or later we’ll all need social care and communicators, right now social care needs you.
Mark Ford is head of communications and engagement at Somerset Waste Partnership and was formerly communications manager at Somerset County Council.
* Panorama’s Crisis In Care documentaries are still available on BBC iPlayer
Episode 1: https://bbc.in/2JLDvOu
Episode 2: https://bbc.in/2Z8iscK
Image via Bart Everson