Mark Topps, registered manager at Eastern County Care and social care activist, told us at the time,
“I think social care is definitely now truly in the spotlight, with people who work outside the sector, which is definitely a positive.“
This spotlight brought an opportunity for people within social care to gain the recognition they deserve. David Smallacombe, Chief Executive Officer of Care and Support West, is happy people are becoming more aware of social care’s contribution to their communities:
“I’ve been extraordinarily pleased about the way in which social care has become being viewed on equal footing with healthcare, that’s a really good change. So I think that the [pandemic] will have taught lots and lots of lessons, people will have learned lots and lots of lessons about how they need to be thinking differently about what social care looks like.”
As people become more aware of social care’s role in society, there has been an increase in acknowledgement and support for the sector. Karolina Gerlich, Director of the Care Workers Charity, is still optimistic that increased public support will translate into a better financial deal for the sector:
“We hope that 2021 will continue to recognise the huge contribution that social care makes to society, and that we will be able to see even greater public support and recognition for care workers, and for the charitable fundraising. So we as a charity can help an even larger number of carers then we have in 2020.”
The Dangers of Fame
Many will share Gerlich’s hope, but it nevertheless reveals a fundamental flaw with the current system: why should charity have been such a great source of financial support to carers working through the pandemic? The public has displayed great outpourings of appreciation and fundraising for carers over the past ten months, but of late it seems that people are becoming more frustrated with the restrictions on their own lives during the pandemic than the struggles of our frontline workers.
Take the #clapforourcarers campaign for example. When Annemarie Plas, the original organiser of the event, suggested bringing it back with a wider remit as #clapforourheroes she was met with a considerably less positive response. (You may have noticed less applause doing the rounds of our communities on 7th January). There was an outcry across social media at the ineffectiveness of the display when the idea of reviving it emerged in the most recent lockdown. Some have even gone so far as to threaten Miss Plas for her good intentions.
This may seem like an extreme example, but it reflects the nature of publicity in the modern age. The media landscape is a vast, crowded place and retaining control of your own narrative is incredibly difficult. Something social care has not been immune to either.
David Smallacombe, Chief Executive Officer of Care and Support West explains:
“One of the challenging things with the pandemic has been that the public perception of care has been driven so often by the news and press. All you hear about is the dreadful bit. You don’t hear much about the vigilant staff and managers, the people being prepared to go, not just the extra mile, but the extra 100 miles.”
Seizing the Moment
Dr Tara French, Technology and Digital Innovation Lead for Scottish Care, tell us about the purpose of their Social Care Mosaic:
“So the idea is to share stories of positive futures for social care. So by asking people to share their tile for the mosaic, we’re asking people to contribute an image that for them represents a positive feature of social care and provides a little bit of a summary as to why that represents the positive future.
“We’re starting to collect stories on what social care means to people, so that it’s almost the purpose of understanding what people’s aspirations are. But at the same time, by collecting these stories and aspirations, you’re starting to raise awareness of what, what that perception of social care actually is.”
These efforts are crucial to keep showing the side of care that gives hope and strength to our communities. People outside the sector rarely interact with social care until it becomes a part of their life. The pandemic coverage has extended a measure of this experience to everyone, but unfortunately in most cases without the counterbalance of experiencing the benefits of care. Operations Director of Cera Care, Katie Furey, sees a new opportunity for the sector to paint a positive picture of itself:
“Now is the time to act, never has Social Care been more prominent than it has been in 2020 due to COVID 19. We need to create the vision to empower people to live longer, healthier, better lives in their own homes by promoting independence, wellbeing and prevention.”
Building on from Here
There are too many benefits to increased awareness around social care, for its opportunities to be ignored. In particular, the opportunity to push for lasting reform. Becca Young, one of the minds behind Scottish Care’s ‘Care Futures’ project, explains:
“There is a real opportunity created by the increased awareness of the sector in the last year and the recognition of the need for reform in a number of areas. There is an important opportunity to do that properly and start some of those discussions.”
Right now, social care is prominent in people’s minds because it is prominent in their lives, and this presents an opportunity in the sector, as awareness can be a driving impetus for reform. How and whether that impetus can be harnessed and turned into a force for change will be the subject of our next blog post, with more contributions from sector experts.
Next week we will be exploring different expert insights on social care reform and whether 2021 will be the year change comes.