Coronavirus Days Part 4 – a fork in the road

If my rusty O-Level history serves me correctly, the period between the end of WW2 and 1950 saw the formation of all the major institutions that have shaped the world we know today, including the NHS and the WHO. Despite the noise from across the pond about the latter, can you imagine a world without these institutions? I certainly can’t.

This was a period of unprecedented co-operation. Take, for example, the Marshall Plan that helped rebuild Europe at a cost (in today’s money) of more than $200bn. For the next two decades, dubbed ‘the golden age,’ growth surged. It was the longest period of consistent economic growth in history. It was a time of low unemployment, increased choice and optimism. Investment works.

Photo of Steve Scown
Steve Scown, Dimensions CEO, blogs

The Chinese word for crisis, as JFK once (somewhat inaccurately) said, means both danger and opportunity. I’m prompted to question whether we will pursue the pathway to opportunity or end up in even more dangerous times?

Will we emerge from this crisis with our determination to create better lives for more people renewed? Or exhausted?

This year’s extraordinarily generous budget failed even to mention social care. Will we now co-operate and grasp the nettle or continue, as successive governments of all persuasions have, to kick the social care can down the road? Because make no mistake about it, we’ve come to a fork in that road:

Well, not quite entirely. Taken alongside austerity-depleted LA budgets, the Coronavirus bill permits statutory support to become limited to meeting someone’s survival needs with little regard for their quality of life. It risks a return to large scale institutional models of care. It could so easily, if we are not careful, lead to a surge in the numbers of people detained long term under the Mental Health Act, a failure of Transforming Care – and in my worst nightmares, the building of more institutional warehouses.

On the other hand, I read between the lines of the DHSC Action Plan with something approaching optimism – yes, really. And I know the Care Badge has become a bit of a lightning rod, but as an aside I think in the long term, it’s a good thing the DHSC has taken it up. (How it became such a major part of the announcement and wasn’t just buried in the detail is beyond me and I hope has led to some ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ conversations in Whitehall.)

I can’t remember  feeling  as close to a ‘get it’ moment : A time when it’s more than re-badging the DH as the DHSC; when it’s more than paying lip service to any concept of equally valuing the NHS and Social Care.  We have massive challenges ahead and so much more can be done. There are questions to be asked (later please as now is definitely not the time) but I do feel the government is bringing its considerable energies to bear on social care for perhaps the first time. In its plans for PPE, for admissions and discharges and in its creation of a brand for social care (as I acknowledge mocked by some – but not here) I do see a belated recognition that the NHS and Social Care have to be considered together. That the health of one depends absolutely on the health of the other – and our own health and well-being depends on both.

Today, Dimensions launches our  ‘coronaheroes’ website , where we pay  tribute publicly to the commitment, resilience and all round brilliance of our support teams.

Dimensions’ and Discovery’s #CoronaHeroes by Dimensions

I hope it inspires even more people to choose support work as a career. I hope it helps the public believe in social care workers.  I hope it helps policymakers remember how, when the chips were down, our colleagues stood up to be counted.

Enjoy the stories and whatever your connection to our sector, please play your part in making sure we follow the opportunity pathway.