Crisis in care?

By the time you’re reading this, the first episode of Panorama’s ‘Crisis in Care’ will have been broadcast.

I don’t know exactly what ended up on screen, but having seen a rough cut, I’ve a good idea of what these two, hour-long films will look like.

Panorama spent 10 months in Somerset, following our social care teams and a dozen case studies of people moving through

the care system. You’ll see the inspirational work of our social workers, care providers and voluntary groups – sobering and humbling, it’s a reminder of just how important local government is to the fabric of our communities.

You’ll also see the struggles of people receiving care, the toll taken on families and carers, the difficult decisions that have to be made in a system for which funding hasn’t kept pace with the demands of a rapidly ageing population or people’s expectations.

This isn’t a story about Somerset. Panorama could have blindly stuck a pin in a map and found the same kind of stories anywhere in the UK.

As a matter of urgency, this country needs a Green Paper setting out a route map for funding social care sustainably in the long term. What we’ve done is put our head above the parapet to help tell that story, because it’s one that everyone needs to hear.

It would have been much easier not to get involved. When you agree to let Panorama in, you know you’re going to get a harsh dose of reality and no editorial control. Those are the rules and this had to be something that my chief executive and I were signed-up to.

But if you’re confident in what you do, you should be brave enough to tell your story to the widest possible audience. We’ve spent plenty of time talking about this in Somerset, writing letters, supporting the lobbying of the County Councils Network and others, but there comes a point when you have to go further.

The end result is two films that have the potential to force this issue back onto the political and public agenda.

“A national crisis is coming and, by contributing to these films, I’m proud to be part of something that could make a difference

Was the experience perfect? Of course not. Panorama came during a hugely pressurised and difficult budget-setting process when the media were desperately seeking the ‘next Northamptonshire’.

Our financial position has improved significantly (albeit far too heavily reliant on one-off and uncertain funding, but that’s another story), and we’ve topped up reserves – but that positive chapter came too late to be included in this story. That’s frustrating, as is the lack of screen time for our trailblazing, community-led care approach that’s having fantastic results and improving lives.

Am I delighted these films are called ‘Crisis in Care’? No. Care isn’t in crisis in Somerset. But a national crisis is coming and, by contributing to these films, I’m proud to be part of something that could make a difference.

I’m asked about potholes virtually every day, but I can count on the fingers of one hand the questions I’ve had about social care. This is a subject we need to be talking about, politically and publicly, and I hope we’re talking about it a little more after these films.

As first went to press, Panorama’s ‘Crisis in Care’ was scheduled to be broadcast on BBC1 at 9pm on Wednesday 29 May and Wednesday 5 June

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