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Social Care Reform

The Centre for Welfare Reform fully supports the Reclaim Social Care campaign and will continue to offer support to it.

The Fellowship of the Centre includes disabled people, family members and other experts in social care. In our view it is time for radical change to the social care system, not tinkering or the addition of a little extra funding. The system has been designed around the wrong principles and we need a new starting point:

1. Start with human rights

Children and adults with disabilities have fundamental social and human rights to assistance and to the removal of any barriers that stop them living lives as full citizens. Making these rights real demands requires significant reform across the whole of the welfare state; reform of the current social care systems (children and adults) will provide only one element of the changes that are necessary.

2. Ensure disabled people and families lead the change

Government needs a senior minister who is focused on disability rights; but, even more importantly, it needs a new dialogue with disabled people and families. This needs to be at both national and local levels and resources and structures need to be opened up to end the paternalistic policy-making which has failed us all. Disabled people and families must be central to the redesign of the whole system.

3. Deinstitutionalise the whole system

Too many resources are locked into services that people don’t want and don't need and which undermine inclusion and community life. Far too many people are placed in institutional care services, far from home and unable to sustain meaningful relationships or contribute to community life. The privatisation of care has undermined social innovation, but has allowed the bleeding of social care by private corporations and tax havens. Resources must be moved away from service providers, particularly providers of institutional care, and moved into the hands of disabled people, families and local communities.

4. End the commodification of care

We must abandon the idea that social care is fundamentally a service which can be purchased, regulated for and provided by corporate businesses. Care, in its most positive sense, is about relationships of love and commitment; the welfare state must start by respecting and supporting these relationships. When people pay for a service or employ personal assistance then the rights of individuals, families and workers must all be protected, and support systems must organised locally.

5. Enable people and families to be in control

People have the right to shape their own lives and their own support. But progress on enabling independent living has been undermined by unnecessary interference and the failure to provide flexible and supportive systems of self-directed support. People who take more control finds themselves frustrated by cuts, bureaucracy and a lack of local support. People need to be allowed to use Individual Service Funds rather than be forced to manage everything themselves.

6. Ensure peer support is available

The most effective support and advice is the support provided by people with real lived experience. Disabled people and families are a source of expertise and support and local communities can be organised to foster peer support that builds confidence, security and fosters personal growth. 

7. Shift power to local communities

Power in the UK is far too centralised. People and families need to be given the primary power to shape support around their own circumstances, desires and resources. Local communities must be able to develop and adapt as inclusive places that welcome people with different gifts. Social work functions are best carried out at the neighbourhood or community level, that is below the level of what the UK considers to be ‘local government’. A new level of local governance and control is necessary to enable meaningful neighbourhood change.

8. End means-testing

Means-testing (or charging) is a disaster for social care and it is entirely unethical. It acts as a super-tax targeted on sick and disabled people, creating a perverse poverty trap, and it undermines wider social support by encouraging the wealthy to make their own private provision for care. It is essential that we end means-testing in social care and put the system on the same terms as the NHS.

9. Establish fair funding for disability support

Even before the extreme cuts imposed by the Conservative and Coalition government since 2010, social care funding had persistently lagged behind funding for other public services. The level of funding needs to be increased to approximately 3% of GDP and protected as an essential and ongoing element of public sector spending. The current model of funding via local government is also not fit for purpose and there needs to be a new national framework for individual entitlements, ideally built on a platform of basic income for all.

10. Reinvent social services

The social work profession has been abused and distorted by at least three decades of mismanagement by central government. It is currently split between children and adult services and mired in systems that misdirect its efforts. It must be reintegrated and refocused on protecting human rights and supporting citizens and communities to solve their own problems. Read more on this topic here.

The Centre's Manifesto on Social Care Reform is led by Bob Rhodes. Please contact Bob directly if you have any suggestions about how to improve our Manifesto.

The Centre has published numerous reports and articles on different aspects of social care reform, some of which are gathered together in this collection from our library: CfWR Publications on Social Care Reform