Is adult social care an ongoing conversation for councillors in their communities or is it something that only comes up occasionally through casework when things go wrong? Are councillor attitudes to social care informed by what they hear from people on the doorstep, particularly at election time? Or is there a disconnect between these doorstep conversations and the conversations in the town hall?
A lack of public interest?
In a fascinating recent piece, Simon Bottery of the King’s Fund, explores the degree to which the public pays attention to adult social care when it comes to elections.
Drawing on polling evidence, Bottery argues that the 2022 local elections were not “…an election in which voters were particularly interested in adult social care”.
Indeed, social care appeared as only the 12th most important local issue for voters. This is despite people being generally dissatisfied with adult social care and despite adult social care making up around 40% of the budget for those councils that have direct responsibility for it.
Why is this?
Well, Bottery suggests that it might be that people don’t necessary associate adult social care with local councils. It might also be to do with the fact that barely 2% of the population use adult social care services. This is obviously a very small number compared with those who experience roads and potholes (the number one local issue!).
Reasons to think otherwise?
In contrast, there might also be reasons to suppose that adult social care might come up on the doorstep. For example:
- Local elections aren’t necessarily about ‘council’ issues, so even if people don’t associate adult social care with local councils, they might want to talk about it anyway
- You don’t need to be directly receiving a service or be in contact with a service to feel strongly. The experience of extended family members or friends, for example, might well be in the front of people minds. 14 per cent of people have some contact with social care as family members or workers, much higher than the 2 per cent who use it directly
- Community schemes such as lunch clubs or dance groups, that have a role in community support and prevention might not be labelled as adult social care but nevertheless might come up in conversations
- If the council is being particularly proactive in promoting its work on adult social care, health and wellbeing more widely, might these topics come up as a result?
Of course, this is just speculation and there is really only one group who will be able to shed more light on this topic – councillors themselves.
That’s why, in the case study research we will be doing shortly, it will be interesting, to hear from councillors about the adult social care conversations they have, or haven’t been having on the doorstep.