Change that leads to better lives

Crisis, what crisis? Signs of hope from communities across the UK

Anna Dixon MBE, Chair of the Archbishops’ Commission on Reimagining Care, considers the role of community as a source of support and increasing people’s opportunities to participate.

Crisi what Crisi 01

In the media and policy debates we hear a constant cry of social care is in crisis. There is no doubt that decades of inaction by successive governments to put in place a long term and sustainable plan for social care, a policy of austerity which resulted in cuts in local authority funding, and a failure to implement the Care Act 2014 have resulted in problems.

We don’t have to look far to find providers in financial trouble struggling to provide the quality of care they want to. Critical shortages of care workers, with many leaving because they can’t deliver the care they want to and can earn more in other sectors. Burnt-out family carers, exhausted by the lack of respite, feeling isolated and unsupported. Ultimately the consequences are borne by people with disabilities and older people who need care and support, finding they are left without the support that enables then to live life and do the things they want to.

So, it was a breath of fresh air when I recently spent time with people from all over the country who are implementing community-led support. This is a very different approach to care and support. The focus is on place and sees the community as a source of support which can avoid crises and provide a timelier response. There are other elements to the approach including strengths-based practice in social work and commissioning differently to develop a more responsive and flexible provider market focused on outcomes.

I was there in my role as Chair of the Reimagining Care Commission set up by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. We have been tasked with developing a radical and inspiring vision for care and support in England drawing on Christian theology and ethics. We have developed a draft set of principles and values which we believe should inform how care and support are organised and delivered. We have also recently completed a Listening Exercise, where we invited people to tell us what was good and bad about the current system and their ideas for what they wanted to be different in future. We will be reflecting on what we have heard and using this to further shape our work. The Commission is due to report in September 2022.

I was truly inspired by hearing the stories from a wide range of local authorities from Somerset to Salford, Shropshire to Swindon of how they are engaging people early, having good conversations, and mobilising community support. I sensed the energy and passion for this approach from local authority commissioners, social workers, directors of adult social services, and from voluntary sector partnerships.

One of the many heroes celebrated during the event was the innovation team from Burslem, a town in Staffordshire. The team had formed during lockdown and built relationships across the statutory and voluntary sector during this time. Among the team members was a pastor whose church had seen a need during COVID and set up a community hub organising the distribution of clothes, food and essentials to those who needed them, due to health or financial challenges. Through this they connected with the local authority and social workers and are now providing a wide range of proactive support and ensuring people can get help at the earliest opportunity.

When I returned from the event, I felt like saying “Crisis what crisis?. It gave me such hope that people are making change despite the challenging context. Volunteers are working alongside social workers. People are doing more for themselves, feeling supported and empowered. Professionals are enjoying their work, free from the shackles of bureaucracy and able to resolve issues more quickly. Directors can see and measure improvements in people’s quality of life. Commissioners are creating new employment and business opportunities in the care sector and working with those who draw on care to shape the market.

Communities of various kinds play a vital role in enabling people who draw on care and support to live a full life. As part of the work of the Commission on Reimagining Care we are considering the role that different types of communities, including churches and other faith communities, play in strengthening support and increasing people’s opportunities to participate. As we continue our work over the next few months, we are keen to learn about care and support provided by a range of organisations, both formal and informal. What’s going on in your community? What would enable people in your area to be better supported?

Please do get in touch at if you would like to tell us about how you are engaging with your community to enable people to flourish.

About the author

Dr Anna Dixon MBE is currently Chair of the Archbishops’ Commission on Reimagining Care. Until recently Anna was Chief Executive of the Centre for Ageing Better. She served as an advisor to the Independent Review of Adult Social Care in Scotland. She has worked in health and care for over 25 years nationally and internationally.

Twitter: @DrAnnaDixon #ReimaginingCare



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