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Mavis and Meena – social care abundance or deficit?

Community Catalysts works across the UK, helping local people to help other local people. In every area where we work, we meet amazing people who are willing and able to offer care and support to their fellow citizens. We have the pleasure of knowing people like Dawn and Local Social CIC and hundreds and hundreds of others like them. We are privileged to see people creating innovative approaches and ways to help others that look nothing like the handful of accepted, task-based ‘social care services’ as often defined by council commissioners, regulators and others. We see abundance.

Meena is laid in a hospital bed, she looks sad. There is a nurse stood by her bed with a clipboard, she is talkingBut there is a flipside to this development work that is much less joyful. We work alongside councils and health authorities under huge pressure to get people the help that they need. We hear tales of people stuck in hospital or struggling alone unsupported. We talk to amazing care organisations and disabled employers struggling to recruit new staff. We hear discussions about gaps, ‘unmet need’, and the need for ‘market development’. We know people in those discussions only see deficit.

Graphic of Angela with an image of a community group in her left hand and another group in her right. There are question marks above her head and a speech bubble that says 'what'So, we are puzzled. What the heck is going on? How can all that amazing stuff not be on people’s radars, helping people who need it and filling all those gaps?

We started thinking about this issue in a bit of detail and realised that, in some instances, the gap is actually in the definition and not in ‘provision’. If we define social care as simply personal care…then we narrow that already narrow definition even further and again we squeeze the abundance out of view. At the same time, we narrow the choices and options open to people. In practice, this might mean telling them that their ‘needs’ can’t be met right now when we actually mean…

there isn’t a big CQC regulated homecare agency able to provide the ‘4 calls’ a day we have decided you need.

Or telling people they need to move to a care home when we actually mean…

we don’t have the time, connections or resources to work with you and your family to knit together the creative tapestry of support you will need if you are to stay at home.

Someone very sage once said to me at an event…

social services spend a huge amount of time and effort trying to stop me having what I didn’t want anyway!

…It was said tongue in cheek but sadly holds more than a grain of truth in some instances.

So, with all this in mind we have developed a little video, one we hope explores the ideas of abundance and deficit through the eyes of fictional folks – Meena who lives in Typical Land and Mavis who lives in Splendid Land…

We hope at the very least it sparks a few reflections and conversations about abundance versus deficit and definition versus provision. Let us know if it strikes a chord.

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