Jun 20

Don't fly too close to the sun

Posted: 23 June 2020

In the first of a series of blogs where Skills for Care start to think about what post virus adult social care will look like our Head of Workforce Innovation Jim Thomas imagines our sector as being the solar system as he takes a journey through the complex challenges we all face.

The most important thing to know about social care is that it is big. It’s so big that it can be hard to grab hold of. 

In some ways social care is like the universe. It’s ever expanding. It’s got lots of different things in it. You could float around in it for ever and still have no idea where you were. Fundamentally, it’s running on the same set of basic rules. Yet it’s almost impossible to imagine what those rules are.

Most of us choose to ignore social care as much as we can – occasionally gazing at it from a distance. People actively involved in it all have an opinion on what’s in, what’s out, what’s the most important thing to focus on. Every so often, a part of social care disappears from view. Sometimes, bits of social care disappear into a black hole. A few years later something emerges that is more or less the same as the thing that disappeared – it’s just that a different group of people have discovered it. 

It’s too easy to say everything is the same everywhere. In our own solar system, we have a wide range of planets of different sizes, with different atmospheres. Social care is no different.

Saturn is a bit like the workforce that supports older people living in residential care. Most of us have heard of Saturn. We know about the rings that surround Saturn. However, that’s about as much as most of us will ever know. Similarly, until recently we didn't know much about the workforce that supports older people in care homes. What we haven’t taken much notice of is Titan (home care). It’s right next to Saturn, it might even be a planet, but we are not quite sure. The biggest social care planet in the public’s mind is the older people’s planet. It’s also a planet that is far enough away, that we can choose to ignore it.  

Mars is like the workforce that supports people with a learning disability and autistic people. We can see it quite clearly in the night sky. We have all heard scary stories about Mars, and if we are being honest, some people are a little bit scared of people with a learning disability and autistic people and can’t understand why anyone would get a job supporting them. However, those of us who have looked at stuff about Mars get really excited about it. There might be life there. Perhaps if we all spent some time with people with a learning disability or autistic people we’d all realise that the prejudices and misconceptions are just that.

Pluto – mental health – is out there. We are not quite sure if it’s a planet. Our scientists tell us it’s a dwarf planet, which leaves us thinking: does that mean it is or isn’t a planet? Does that mean we include it in our solar system or not? Are the workers that support people with mental health needs part of social care, or health care, or the voluntary sector? Are they health care workers masquerading as social care workers? Let’s assume that we can choose to include or not include them, depending on whether or not we’ve got the time, or the inclination, to focus on mental health. Or is it just easier to leave them all in the hands of others and leave mental health out in the social care cold.

Earth. It’s teeming with life of all shapes and sizes. But we are not all equal. Where we live can have a big impact on how we get on in life. Earth is like the world of personal assistants and their employers. It's a place many of us aspire to be. It includes people from all the other social care planets and people who don’t have a planet associated with them. It’s a good place to be. It could be a lot better if we all looked after it a bit better.

The sun. It’s where a lot of the money comes from. At the moment we are in middle of a solar flare and there’s lots of money out there. There’s a real risk that if the social care workforce flies too close to the sun it will burn up and we won’t have enough people to replace those that have been burnt.


Next week Jim takes a journey through dark matter and imagines a brave new world of adult social care.