Tackling the real time-bomb – how funding for social care needs to be turned on its head

By Lucy Hurst-Brown, chief executive of award-winning learning disability charity Brandon Trust and deputy chair of VODG (Voluntary Organisations Disability Group)


Lucy Hurst-Brown

Lucy Hurst-Brown

The social care system needs to be turned on its head to provide better support and better value for money.  While political parties dish out party conference promises about the NHS and seeing your GP on a Saturday, we ignore at our peril the urgent and pressing issue of an ageing population and an ever-increasing demand for social care. This is the ticking time-bomb.

And in order to deal with it we need a radical approach. The current system of allocating support according to need, known as the deficiency model, is counterproductive and not cost effective.

Instead, we need to take an ‘asset-based approach,’ directing resources towards building on what people can do and what is already available to them.

Brandon Trust was established 20 years ago with a clear remit to seize the opportunity offered by Care in the Community by supporting people with learning disabilities, many of whom recently ‘freed’ from institutions, to live in the community.

We now support more than 1200 people across the South of England to do just that, but the broader societal shift from institution to integration is far from complete. People with learning disabilities have consistently been perceived and treated as needy and passive recipients of services that only experts know how to design and deliver.

An entire industry comprised of government departments, academic institutions, charities, philanthropic trusts, think tanks, social enterprises, private companies, social landlords and social businesses have been built and are sustained on the premise that people with learning disabilities are in need. Indeed, this ‘deficiency model’ dictates that the more people with learning disabilities can’t do, the more the organisations will receive in funding.

But an ‘asset-based’ approach works from the principle that every single person has capacities, abilities and gifts. Support can be shaped around what people can do, rather than what they can’t. Taking this approach means resources will be far more effective if they’re used to help people contribute to their own community, often representing much greater value for money.

Organisations like Brandon Trust must make it our mission to get out of the way of the people we support. Ultimately we need to be looking to do ourselves out of a job, because the measure of our success should be the level to which people are integrated into their community. Of course, people have very different levels of challenges and support requirements, but the more they are part of an active community and social network, the less their demand for support will be.

Lucy’s blog is based on extracts from her essay From patients to invisible citizens, part of a new collection of essays entitled The Future of Disability published by think-tank Demos in partnership with VODG (www.demos.co.uk/publications/disability) in September 2014.

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