We don’t yet know if we will arrive at this year’s annual National Children and Adult Services Conference (NCASC) in the middle of a General Election. What we do know is that colleagues will arrive with passion and commitment to improve the lives of the local people they serve.
With that objective front and centre, what issues do we expect colleagues will want to hear about and discuss in Bournemouth?
Some will be the ‘usual suspects’ – not least, funding. Others will be new, reflecting developments over the past 12 months. All will matter in terms of how councils can continue to help support and improve people’s wellbeing and independence.
The recent Spending Round may help shore up adult social care in 2020/21, but will it address all demand pressures next year – and what ground needs to be laid as we look ahead to 2020’s multi-year Spending Review?
Then, of course, comes the perennial issue of whether the debate about the long-term future of care and support will have moved on. The Queen’s Speech confirmed that the Government will bring forward proposals to reform adult social care. But will they be published by the time we meet at NCASC and, if so, will they be far-reaching enough to really secure the long term?
In the realm of public health, colleagues will be keen to consider the progress made over the past year to truly prioritise prevention. Can we confidently say we are starting to see a move away from a focus on hospitals and medical interventions that patch up people once they become ill, towards genuine investment in our local communities to address the wider determinants of health – housing, giving children the best start, and giving people access to a decent job? These are the most important factors in keeping people healthy, productive and resilient.
“Health and wellbeing boards provide continuity and accountability to their communities
Last, and by no means least, what of the big changes afoot in the NHS as the Long Term Plan is implemented? All sustainability and transformation partnerships are set to become integrated care systems by 2021 and, at neighbourhood level, all GP practices are now part of primary care networks.
Colleagues will be eager to think about how best to ensure that councils are closely involved in planning and delivery at all levels. In particular, we know that health and wellbeing boards (HWBs) have a major role to play in improving health and wellbeing outcomes, improving care and support services, and achieving best value.
Especially now – amid the turmoil and change in the care and health system – HWBs provide continuity and a vital anchor in place-based approaches, and accountability to their communities. They are the only forums that bring together political, clinical and community leaders to identify the biggest health and wellbeing challenges, and the action required to address them. But beyond local government – and particularly in the health sphere – is that the perception?
At a time of such uncertainty, upheaval and challenge, local government’s skill set is more important than ever. Councils’ resilience and innovation, combined with their willingness to work beyond strict party lines, makes them a trusted and essential component of public service across the UK.
NCASC will again offer an important platform for councils to share their knowledge and make the case for the funding and freedoms required to enable local government to continue making its vital contribution to health, care and wellbeing.