NDTi’s Chief Executive, Paul Marshall, discusses the hotly debated topic of the upcoming Social Care Green Paper and the recognition of interconnection between social care, health and housing.
I was fortunate to attend the National Children and Adult Services Conference this month where many people were talking about the imminent (or maybe not so imminent) Social Care Green Paper. As you would expect, it was a hotly debated topic and was frequently brought up in various conversations, discussions and workshops.
I attended a workshop about housing, health and social care, highlighting the growing recognition of the interconnection between these three areas (I say growing loosely – I think the majority of us have recognised the link for some time). It was a good session, with some great information and a sense that in some areas, the connection is recognised at a strategic level which is already resulting in new ways of thinking and working between those sectors.
Again, in this workshop discussions and references to the Green Paper cropped up, within these was the promise that housing would play a key feature in both the paper and emerging thinking around health. Fantastic. This did, however, get me thinking about the recent Social Housing Green Paper https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/a-new-deal-for-social-housing published in August 2018 and whether the housing, health and social care connection had already started to create a change in narrative there. Like the delay in the Social Care Green Paper, it took a long time to see it finally published, and when I first read it, whilst encouraged by a commitment to remove the stigma of social housing, a freshening of customer rights and things such as ensuring energy efficient homes, I couldn’t recall being overly struck by a strong reference to a connection with social care or health.
As a bit of a pedant, I double checked the Social Housing Green Paper and it’ll be no surprise to anyone that within the 78 pages (alright there are quite a few pictures), social care is mentioned twice, disabled/disability/disabilities eight, health eight, older people and mental health three times each and no mention of young people. What was also worth noting was that it talked about these things in the context of bricks and mortar - not people, lives and community - missing the point that bricks and mortar are usually found in a community and have people with a range of abilities and needs living in them. You’d think there would be a stronger link, especially given that 14% of social housing is what’s termed as supported housing.
Back to the point – if it’s true that social care, housing and health are really starting to talk to and work with each other, and if the Social Care Green Paper is to include housing, then I’m hoping that it fills the housing / social care / health gap that’s so obvious in the social housing one. It must talk about making sure where and how people live provides choices and opportunities. That the location is right, with access to the things, people and services they want and need, plus social, environmental and cultural opportunities. It cannot simply say we need more supported housing or better adaptations. It must push at the whole context of developing new communities with homes that are fit for purpose now and in the future, as their life is now and when those lives change. It must start the conversation about ensuring that new developments are based around the premise of communities and homes for all and stop the creation of single demographic new estates and isolated and often gated supported and sheltered housing. If it talks about these things then yes, it will fill the gap the Social Housing Green Paper left. If not, then a golden opportunity to strengthen the dialogue that’s emerging will have been missed.