The ADASS Autumn Survey – The Penna View

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12 Dec 2019

The ADASS Autumn Survey – The Penna View

This autumn, the Association of Directors in Adults Social Services (ADASS) has launched the findings of its survey to gather views about adult social care from councils across the country. From budgetary issues, to meeting demand, to national issues – the survey was wide ranging and insightful. Our Director of Executive Search for the Public Sector, Maggie Hennessy, gives her take on the findings.

One of the headline stats from the ADASS survey is that 94% and 82% of Directors in Adult Social Care feel they won’t be able to deliver on their responsibilities in Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) and safeguarding respectively.

Only 59.7% are confident they will be able to delivery statutory duties relating to safeguarding by the end of 2020/2021. What these concerning statistics show is we cannot afford to push social care agendas aside any longer. 

I had the pleasure of connecting with many in my social care network at the recent NCAS conference in Bournemouth. The mood there was one of stoicism. There is a lot to be proud of in social care, yet Directors are facing an uphill struggle to continue to deliver their services in the wake of increased user demand and central government insouciance. 

Our Penna dinner at NCAS demonstrated the importance of social care, and the consequences when motivity slips. Our speaker, Sammi Woodhouse, is a prominent activist having experienced and exposed the child abuse in Rotherham. Daily headlines underline inequities in society. Families are forced into using food banks, individuals are taking on crippling carer responsibilities and there’s an increase in children being brought up in temporary accommodation.

Social care meets the needs of vulnerable individuals daily – but it cannot deliver without support.

Central government

ADASS’s survey demonstrates the effects of austerity and funding cuts are still felt. The LGA estimates that social care faces a funding gap of £4.3 billion by 2020. Positively, 75.3% of Directors are expecting to deliver all or most of their planned savings for 2019. However – tightening belts has impact on delivery and service users. The upcoming spending review must take this into account.

Social care is a central spoke of the wheel of services Council’s provide. Ensuring leaders of these directorates have the means, power and ability to deliver on their statutory responsibilities is a promise central government must keep.

The Local Government Association responded to the ADASS survey saying, ‘The next government needs to bring forward substantive proposals for the future of adult social care… we need an honest debate about what the future of care and support should be and how it should be funded in the long-term’.

Ever-noticeable by its absence is the long-promised green paper on social care. This core guidance on the future of a sustainable care system is now not only needed, but imperative.

The workforce

Adecco’s and the CIPD’s latest Labour Market Outlook Survey, saw a slight decline in employment confidence. This highlights that key recruitment and retention challenges remain for many employers, including Councils. For example, this quarter saw a worrying decline in the number of applicants for low-skilled jobs, which is due at least partially to the fall in migration from the EU.

Brexit casts a long shadow, and when these findings are applied to Adult Social Care, the outlook is troubling. Much of our care workforce comes from the EU. 

Given that the survey found that 72.2% of Directors saw a ‘moderate, significant, or very significant increase in the number of admissions to hospital that would have been avoidable had there been sufficient social, primary, and community services’, it’s clear that strong workforce planning is deeply important to service provision.

Innovating to survive

My own professional experience as a recruiter of senior individuals in social care has seen grassroots innovation within the sector – particularly around Early Help and Prevention. Lambeth Council, for instance, has set up ‘What Works for Children’s Social Care’ – a initiative putting social workers into local schools. This means quicker and more effective outreach for children and families – and another pair of eyes to see any signposts of vulnerability in pupils. 

Such efforts are to be lauded, given the difficult circumstances in which such positive change is occurring. The ADASS survey revealed that ‘93% of Directors indicated that they have some concerns, or insufficient capacity to manage the failure of a large provider’. It’s no wonder councils are looking to become more self-sufficient and commercial.

Something must be done

The situation with social care in general must change – quickly. Central government has a duty to its local government partners to give rapid clarity and focus to Directors, their associated teams and partners. 

If you are a leader in social care, and wish to speak to Penna’s teams about your agendas or recruitment needs please contact;

Maggie Hennessy

Director, Penna Executive Search

Maggie.hennessy@penna.com