Social care is running on empty – but technology can make a difference

There is no single solution to the challenges facing the sector, but technology enabled care can save cash-strapped councils money

It would be easy, but misleading, to say that social care is in crisis. Somehow in many parts of England the system staggers on, using devolution to its advantage. A number of councils have adopted improved ways of working.

However, the sustainability of the system is increasingly being called into question. Whether it’s the Adass budget survey, research by the King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust, or my report for the Carers Trust on the Care Act, the message is broadly the same: the system is running on empty, and people are suffering the consequences.

Why has this not exploded into a major political issue? Most MPs acknowledge that social care is unfinished business, but this has not translated into sufficient political pressure. At a basic level, this is because most people make no distinction between social care, care and support and what the NHS does. It still comes as a shock to many families that social care is not free. Most people make no care plans because they have discounted the chances of ever needing it.

Today the most visible advocate for social care funding is the NHS England boss, Simon Stevens. He told the NHS Confederation conference earlier this year that social care, rather than the NHS, should be at the front of the queue for financial aid. Of course there is a healthy dose of self-interest in this. Health and social care are two sides of the same coin – underinvest in one and you undermine the other.

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