There is a growing quantum of research, analysis and data over the past few decades about social care performance and outcomes.
It is a fair question to ask what has changed as a result. Delayed transfers of care from hospital beds to community services are still a major problem for health and social care, despite thirty years of joint working to eliminate the problem.
The ‘once and for all’ big and conclusive shift from acute care to community care has not happened, for good and bad reasons. Similarly, failures in multi-agency working continue to take place, despite 40 years of Area Child Protection Committees and their replacement vehicle, Local Safeguarding Children Boards.
Throughout the same period – decades – knowledge about what works in social care and what to look out for, has increased exponentially. The evidence-base for assessment and for successful interventions has been transformed for the better. Social workers are better trained and still as passionate as they ever were.
Citizen behaviour and expectations have changed as well. Everyone wants their say now. Everyone wants to be right and is aware of their rights. The historic unequal relationship between professionals and citizens is edging towards an uneasy equality.
Social trends have changed and advanced much faster than legislation or practice. Social work has failed to convincingly translate everything it now knows into individual casework, for two main reasons.
Firstly, people are complex and unique and cannot be provided with a standardised service without it being individually tailored and customised to their circumstances.
Secondly, social workers are people too. They create a personal impact on the people they work with. Their task is to manufacture a chemistry with everyone on their caseload – a tall order.
Each case is a multiple intersection of events in real time, knowledge bases and personal chemistry between all of the participants, professional and otherwise. With so much going on, things can go well or they can go badly. It is, however, work that is unlikely to be routinely carried out by robots (famous last words!).
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