Reform Blog – ‘Society is changing – care and support needs to change with it’

There is a lot of truth in Gandhi’s statement that a nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.

So what does that say about us?

Well, every day in Northern Ireland, thousands of people receive support from carers and through health and social care. Older people, people with physical, sensory or learning disabilities and people with mental ill-health.

For the people who receive support, and of course for the carers who freely give their time, the support given plays a fundamental and everyday role in their lives.

But in wider society, these services are often unnoticed or not seen as directly relevant. This needs to change.

Because as a society, we will see significant change over the next 10, 20 and 30 years. More of us will be older. Fewer of us will be in the workforce. And we’ll be living our lives in increasingly small family units.

And as a society, we have a responsibility to respond to and plan for that change. In December last year, the Department published the report of the Expert Advisory Panel on Adult Care and Support, ‘Power to People: proposals to reboot adult care and support in NI’.

Power to People provides a challenge to everyone: to the Department of Health and the HSC certainly, but also to society. It asks all of us to fundamentally consider our attitudes to ageing, to disability and to personal and collective responsibility.

Over the next 9 months or so, the Department of Health will be leading a programme of engagement to discuss these challenges and build a response to Power to People.

That starts today with the launch of the recruitment of 20 carers to an Independent Expert Carers Panel to ensure that the voice of family carers is central in the Reform of Adult Care and Support project. If you are a carer, I urge you all to read Brenda’s blog to gain insight from her personal experience as a carer – including fighting the system to protect services - and understand why this approach is different.

Plans to involve service users and the wider public will follow.

There is no one solution. No one change which will address all the challenges. And that is why we need as broad a range of voices as possible and I urge you to keep an eye on the website to take advantage of upcoming opportunities.

If Gandhi’s statement holds true, it is now time for us as a society to reflect on our attitudes, aspirations, expectations and – yes - ‘red lines’ to determine how we support both this generation and the next generation and whether we reach the levels of greatness.

Sean Holland, Chief Social Work Officer (11 June 2018)

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