Long term care for older people, social productivity and the ‘big society’: the case of dementia

[Co-authored with Sally-Marie Bamford] My paper for the 2020 Public Services Hub at the RSA on how a social productivity framework – in contrast to the regressive ‘big society’ agenda – may help to improve care for people with dementia.

Europe is getting older. Getting our heads around the unprecedented financial, social and demographic implications is a major challenge. The question of how we fund long-term social care has been partly opened up by the Dilnot Commission. Yet the questions raised about managing costs and balancing national, local and individual priorities and preferences are not the only vital questions. As the baby boomer cohort enters retirement age, there are parallel processes at work, raising opportunities as well as challenges. What is the fairest way to tap into the resources of this affluent and capable generation? How will ‘third agers’ begin to re-shape the boundaries of work and retirement? Will new markets for innovation and personalised services be created to meet increasingly diverse demands?

The Coalition government – driven by a desire to cut public spending and pare back an ‘over-stretched’ welfare state – is paying real attention to these questions, if not yet producing all of the answers. Health, social care, pensions and welfare policy are all under review. Yet it is perhaps the most aspirational of their policy narratives – the Big Society – that could have the most significant impact on long-term social care. But what the Big Society lacks is a coherent account of the role of the state – and this is where 2020PSH’s concept of ‘social productivity’ is able to fill the gap and offer a framework for seeing public services as social catalysts.

In this thoughtful paper authored for 2020 Public Services Hub, Dr Craig Berry and Sally-Marie Bamford argue that social productivity could provide a helpful framework for considering how to construct sustainable social care services.

They remind us that these are services that have never fallen squarely within our Beveridge-derived welfare model – the range of needs described under the heading of ‘social care’ remain too diverse, too social, too intimate to sit neatly within a welfare model that is entirely publicly provided and publicly funded, even if financial resources were more plentiful. A Big Society analysis is strong in recognising the innately social aspect of social care, but weak when it comes to considering the implications for public policy. This is where social productivity may be more valuable as an operating framework for social care reform and innovation.

Click here to access the full document, and here to watch a video of me discussing this paper with Liz Kendall MP.

Image: RSA