Special Group of Psychologists & Social Care 2011

While visiting the National Gallery recently I reflected on the way that many of the pictures drew the viewer's attention to the foreground rather than the background. Although the foreground contained key images that captivated the viewer's attention, the symbolism contained within the background was also very significant but could potentially be missed. 

We have a similar situation in our work within services that provide Social Care. The predominant focus this year has been on the output of the Commission on Funding of Care and Support  (the Dilnot Report*) in July 2011. The cost of Social Care, particularly for older people, continues to be the defining issue within Parliament. 

Though essentially the Commission dealt with wealth conservation, there was  a recommendation that there should be National Eligibility Criteria and portable assessments. 

In the background and less discussed, the Law Commission produced their report on 'Adult Social Care' laid before Parliament in May 2011 - if you cannot locate a copy, please email me.

The Law Commission report is significant in that it is proposing, for the first time, that within England and Wales there should be a consistent and coherent legal framework for adults who are seeking Social Care. There are 76 recommendations so plenty of background reading! 

As a Special Group we responded to the original consultation and our contribution was acknowledged. 

One key recommendation (number 5) from the Law Commission report is that there should be a single overarching principle that adult social care, ' must promote or contribute to the well-being of the individual'. The notion of 'well-being' is not defined but clearly must include psychological factors and represents an opportunity for a psychological perspective to be incorporated into the assessment process.

Such an opportunity neatly interfaces with the Special Group's mission statement viz., the ‘promotion of psychologically informed social care at all levels of the social care system’. The active promotion of our mission statement is currently one of our key strategy objectives. 

Although the work of the Special Group is not always visible we continue to promote the inclusion of Social Care into the thinking with the BPS via our representation on the various Boards of the Society. Currently we are also participating in a BPS working group on Behaviour Change that is considering how psychological knowledge can be made available to governmental policy makers. 

The Special Group has developed a link with 'Skills for Care' through which we are consulting about a proposed learning curriculum within the Social Care sector. In these austere times we have not been able to hold a conference this year but hopefully there may be opportunity for a joint one next year.

The Special Group has also been actively considering a repeat survey of where psychologists can be found within the Social Care sector. The survey will provide information that can again be used to promote psychologically informed Social Care.

In passing, the regulation of Social Care workers appears to be a receding issue although the Health and Social Care Bill 2011 does contain, in Part 7, legislation that abolishes the General Social Care Council (GSSC), whose regulatory function for Social Workers devolves to the Health Professions Council (HPC). The legislation could also enable the HPC to regulate the wider Social Care workforce. 

The numbers, however, suggest that this is unlikely to happen in the immediate future. The HPC currently regulates around 200 000 registrants and will see about 100 000 registrants transfer from the GSSC. The estimated size of the unregulated Social Care workforce currently outside these professions is 1.5 million! 

Creating voluntary registers has been discussed as a way forward. The Special Group remains concerned about the fact that such an unregulated workforce provides services to vulnerable people every hour of every day of the year.

As ever it is important to extend thanks to existing committee members for their contribution of time and expertise. There are still vacancies on the committee so please feel free to contact me about the nature of the commitment.

Dr John Newland, Chair

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