The government has recently announced its ten year plan for the NHS, to improve the efficiency of our health service and people’s general health. But while extra funding for the NHS is always welcome, it is only part of the UK’s health and social care system – and here at Healthwatch Liverpool, we’re keen to get people passionate about social care as well as the NHS!
Social care is essential in keeping up people’s wellbeing, helping people stay out of hospital when they don’t really need to be there. But, despite its importance, it often doesn’t receive the same attention as the NHS.
Social care is any additional help or support that a person may need due to illness, disability, or age. It can include things like nursing or residential care; help at home with tasks like cleaning, preparing food, or personal assistance with things like bathing or getting dressed; day centres; and adaptations to a person’s home, such as stair lifts or grab rails.
Unlike healthcare, social care isn’t always free at the point of use. How much an individual might have to pay toward the cost of social care will depend on their savings – and whether or not the value of their property is considered toward this depends on the type of care you might receive. Social care is also funded at a local level, by your local council, rather than at a national level (like the NHS).
A person’s need for social care can also arise from a health condition – for example, someone who has suffered from a stroke may require long term support. While treatment for the stroke and some initial rehabilitation will be free on the NHS, any long term support needed will be classed as social care, and might have to be funded by the person themselves.
All of these things – the breadth of activity that social care covers, its overlap with health care, and the variation in how it is organised across the country – make social care a difficult system to navigate and understand.
While social care can be confusing, getting involved with the way that social care services are run in our communities is really important.
Our population is getting older, and people are generally living longer and with more long-term health conditions. Many of us may find ourselves needing some form of care at some point in our lives, and we will almost certainly know someone – a friend, loved one, neighbour, family member – who will need to use social care services.
When care is delivered in the ways that we want, providing us with the kind of support that we need, it can be a lifeline – but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes the services we want or need are not available, or are unable to fully meet the needs we have.
This is why we are doing more to talk to people in Liverpool about the social care that they receive – to ensure that local services are meeting the needs of our communities, and that we can work to improve care for everyone who needs it.
We’ll be working with community groups to reach out to their members, as well as visiting day centres, care homes, and supported living settings, to speak to people who use social care services to find out what they think about the care they receive.
We’ll pass the information that we find out to social care providers and local decision-makers, who can then make changes – if needed – to ensure that care services are responsive and genuinely meeting the needs of the people they serve.
If you’d like to hear more about the work we’re doing around social care, sign up to the Liverpool Care Matters mailing list! We’ll be in touch with information about how you can get involved in our work and how you can influence local social care provision.