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Six innovations that could build a new social care system

In March, the government announced a green paper in response to the overwhelming evidence that the way we support older and disabled people is neither working nor affordable. Fewer people are getting support, care providers are leaving the sector and handing back contracts to councils, and hospitals are filling up with older people who have no medical reason to be there.

The green paper, alongside a welcome short-term funding boost of £2bn, was primarily framed as the latest attempt to find a sustainable funding model for social care – but optimists in the sector welcomed the potential for ambition that it signalled.

Sustainable long-term funding is vital, but it is only half the story. Social care will not be affordable – perhaps not even seen by the public as worth funding – unless it can become a service that, like the NHS or schools, is capable of renewing people’s faith in public services and the welfare state. This means it must become what people entering the profession wish it to be: the support network that enables people to live safely, purposely and well, in their own home or a place that feels like home, with people they love.

Not every form of social care can achieve that, even when delivered effectively and consistently. The models that most clearly see their goals from that human perspective – a good life lived in a good place – are currently small in scale. Shared Lives is a little-known model promoting just this kind of support, in which approved carers are matched with disabled adults or older people, and share family life with them.

Shared Lives is one of six social care innovations that have joined together to demonstrate that, collectively, they could form the core of an efficient, cost-effective long-term support system for adults. They include local area coordination networks, in which a neighbourhood coordinator supports people who might otherwise slip towards crisis, connecting them back to their friends and neighbours so they have a better chance of living well in their own homes.


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