|Government puts its faith in gardening to tackle elderly care crisis|
|Written by The Telegraph|
|Friday, 18 May 2012|
Plans to help keep elderly people active by encouraging interests such as gardening are set to be a key plank of the long-awaited Government shake-up of social care, the care minister has signalled.
Paul Burstow said that social workers could be asked to assess older people’s hobbies, talents and even their friendship groups to find ways of helping prevent isolation.
He told an audience of social workers in London that it was no longer sustainable to run social services departments as “high dependency crisis services”.
A “radical” shift away from reliance on the state to care for people to involving the wider community is needed, he said.
Mr Burstow argued that spending money on efforts to keep older people active and living independent lives for longer would ultimately save the taxpayer millions of pounds.
The Government is due to unveil a white paper on reforming social care to avert a looming crisis in the next few months.
The document, originally expected last year, has been repeatedly delayed yesterday Mr Burstow was able to give no guarantees about when it would be published.
He said only that his “absolute ambition” was to have it ready before the summer and that the process of writing it is “virtually finished”.
Neither the white paper, nor a separate draft bill, promised in the Queen’s Speech last week, is expected to set out plans to address the more looming funding crisis for the care of Britain’s ageing population.
But Mr Burstow told an audience at the Community Care Live conference in London that one key plank of the white paper could be moves to legislate to keep older peope active.
“In preparing for the White Paper and the draft bill we are strongly considering the crucial role that support networks can play …. in allowing people to lead the sort of lives that they want to lead," he said.
“Simply put it is a vision for social work that is no longer based on one that only reacts in crises.
“Instead we want social workers to look to people's assets - I'm not talking about their bank balances I'm talking about their talents, their gifts, their goals.
“It might be a talent for gardening, or a supportive friend that they have.
“It's about building resilience from relationships to foster those informal networks found in communities that give meaning and purpose to people's lives.
“This is not about buying and selling services I’m talking about starting with a different question: I’m talking about asking what a person’s goals are, what their gifts are, what their talents are and what they can achieve and want to achieve for themselves.
“This is a system therefore that is serious about prevention, which prevents people from being socially isolated, that protects them from declining health, that helps people to be active members of society for as long as possible.”
He added: “Of course there are real pressures on local authority budgets, it would be a fool to deny that that is the case but acting as a high dependency crisis service is of itself unsustainable.
“Quite simply I think the choice is this: it is one of retrenchment or reform and I think therefore radically changing the way we think about delivering social care in a way that chimes with the ‘asset rich’ approach I have been talking about today is absolutely key.”