I was planning to have a digital detox, turn off my iPad and phone for a few days and really switch off as I start our family holiday in the glorious Northumbrian countryside. I’ve brought a number of books I’ve been meaning to read, including Steve Hilton’s More Human, and I restricted myself to one purchase at Alnwick’s famous secondhand bookshop Barter Books – a folio edition of William Thackeray’s journalistic jottings. Although I might pop back for another browse!
My challenge is I love finding out what’s going on in the world and these days I get a lot of news via social media as well as print. So when I caught up with Saturday’s Observer article: ‘Cash-starved, demoralised and sometimes cruel: how England’s social care system fails the most vulnerable‘ I felt the need for a rant! The story of poor care witnessed and reported by a CQC inspector in a care home is no longer really news, nor is the fact that the experts interviewed described a ‘system creaking at the seams’. What astonishes, no appals me, is that those experts and leaders of the providers, regulators and charities blame “the system” as if it is a higher power over which they have no control or influence.
People create systems. I can’t believe in the 21st Century we still think it’s acceptable to blame a system rather than ourselves for the way the world works! I remember having a conversation several years ago about a payroll ‘system’ that consistently failed to pay care staff correctly or on time. When I was trying to fix this, I asked the senior manager accountable for the workforce how long it had been like this? His reply: “well I’ve been here 7-years and it’s never worked”. When I asked why he’d failed to do anything about it, apparently it wasn’t his job. So whose job is it to make sure the ‘system’ works?
It’s time for radical change. In fact, only radical change is going to be enough to deal with the deep-rooted problems that our social care service faces. And that’s going to take bravery. It needs people who will challenge the system and are prepared to put their head above the parapet in spite of the potential dangers. It’s accepting a higher level of risk and the fact that we will make mistakes as we create new models. As my great friend, revolutionary partner and inspiration Dr Bill Thomas says: ‘it takes the genius in the garage to make the bold moves’.
As I have previously stated, we need to learn from the serial tech entrepreneurs and think differently. And above all, we must invest in lifetime personal development for the social care workforce and provide meaningful, fulfilling careers. We’re all on the ageing trajectory and if only for purely selfish reasons, we will want a thriving sustainable HUMAN system by the time we need care and support – won’t we?