I had the exciting opportunity yesterday to represent Curo at a round table discussion with the Minister for Care, Norman Lamb MP. The event, organised by B&NES Council Leader Paul Crossley and by Simon Allen, who chairs B&NES Well-being Board, offered voluntary sector organisations and social care commissioners a chance to share their views on the Care Bill going through parliament and to talk about key issues around the integration of health and social care.
It turns out that Norman Lamb is the kind of Minster who seems to genuinely listen to what’s being said! He took great care to respond to each point raised – maybe down to the fact that as he said, as a Lib Dem, he never really thought that he would end up as a Government Minster. He is determined now to make a positive different to the lives of people he serves.
However, the hard-working and expert voluntary sector here in B&NES isn’t about to be swayed by a little ministerial glamour. The personable Care Minister was challenged directly about the need for housing to have a much higher profile in the Care Bill. He was reminded of the valuable role that Housing Associations play in the delivery of homes and in supporting some of society’s most vulnerable people. For Curo that means helping young people access a home, participate in training and education via our Foyer, or customers accessing our ‘step-down from hospital’ service when they are well enough to leave hospital but can’t get home. The Minister said that it was hearing about all the great stuff going on here in B&NES that led him here in the first place.
He was also challenged about the need for more preventative services to be delivered in the community. Colleagues in the voluntary sector decried the lack of infrastructure funding for the partnerships needed to get services really integrated. Others commented on how the expertise of creating and managing personalised, user-designed services sits firmly with a vibrant and expert voluntary sector. It’s this sector which is best placed to help the NHS make the seismic shifts needed to become patient-led, offering holistic services to every individual.
The response from Norman Lamb was clear – yes – he agrees with all of the above. He is strengthening the place of housing in the bill; he knows the value of preventative services and understands that money needs to follow ambition. It’s acknowledged that the voluntary sector has a substantial track record of offering personalised services in ways that the NHS is yet to dream of.
So - hooray! I’m looking forward to the translation of such positivity into action at the heart of government. Let’s see what the £3.8 billion of integrated pooled funding from health and social care - something the minister talked about today - achieves when local services are trusted to make great decisions. Most of all let’s give the voluntary sector the resources needed to step up to the challenges that face the health and social care system in a big way for the next ten years!