Report review: Social Care a Local Economic Solution for the West Midlands

| Linda Hutchinson

Authors: David Powell, New Economics Foundation, Karen Leach and Karen McCarthy, Localise West Midlands

Published byNew Economics Foundation

Date: August 2017

A couple of years ago I was on a train near Portsmouth on a Sunday afternoon. A young woman, probably no more than 18 years old, was talking on her phone. It was about this and that, amiabe and chatty. She talked about not having much money, but she had been out with friends the night before. She talked about her family and friends. And about a visit that morning to an elderly man “‘cos he is lonely and I like cheering him up”. It turned out she worked for a home care agency and he was a client but “I go and see him on other days too”.

I was struck by her almost blasé attitude to doing such a lovely thing for someone and how she said it in passing. It was no big deal for her, just normal. It made me think about how lucky we are to have young people like that working near to their home, giving more of themselves back to their community.

The report published this August by New Economics Foundation and Localise West Midlands Social Care a Local Economic Solution for the West Midlands takes this sentiment in part. It makes a forceful case for localised money flows – money spent with locally rooted companies is more likely to go to local suppliers and thus the local economy. It promotes the small provider model, mutual and co-operatives with jobs for local people. We profiled Solva Care earlier this year – a wonderful example of this in action in Wales.

The report is aimed at the new Mayor of West Midlands, Andrew Street, and the West Midland Combined Authority. I’m not a big fan of think tank reports that say a government or other body ‘should’ do this and needs to ‘map’ that. This report manages to stay practical and focused though. I particularly like that it recognises a regional role for a targeted advertising and marketing campaign on the vocational and career benefits of social care. It stops short of recommending regional training and education for social care sector, but does talk about networks and champions in schools and colleges.

So what were the highlights for me?

  1. The title itself, making social care a solution. Very refreshing compared with the narrative we usually hear.
  2. The box on page 7 about Delivering strong local economies from previous research by Localise West Midlands. A useful resource I had not come across before.
  3. A comment on page 13 about using “’soft skills’ that people in disadvantaged situations already have”. It turns disadvantage into an advantage.
  4. The five bullets on page 16 that nail the whole case for a different model of social care provision.
  5. The recommendation to bring in expertise to help innovative care providers get started and sustained, mentioning our friends at Community Catalysts.
  6. The plea on page 19 to use the Social Value Act 2012 more fully – not the first or last time we will read that.

And any issues?

My only thought was the inevitable denigration of the big four organisations who dominate the social care market does not acknowledge the good things they do and the wonderful people who work for them. I don’t know where the woman on the train worked but chances are, it was a larger for profit organisation. The motivation to make a difference to people’s lives is a feature of the social care workforce regardless of employer.

Photo by Kristina Litvjak

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