Words have power - choose wisely
Living 200 miles away from my dad who has Alzheimer’s and my mum who has, without much consultation, been reassigned from being his wife to being his ‘carer’, I feel acutely the pressing need for a better social care future.
It would be easy for me to join the chorus of voices calling for government to ‘fix’ the ‘crisis’ in our ‘broken’ social care system. But if I’ve learned one thing over the past several years, it’s that making a crisis out of social care is highly unlikely to help end that crisis.
Repeatedly rehearsing the scale of problems, using metaphors of impending disaster such as the ‘demographic timebomb’ or ‘silver Tsunami’, in the absence of corresponding, viable solutions can see a sense of urgency dissolve into public despondency and fatalism.
Moreover, while there has to be a significant uplift in investment in care and support, it will only be sustainable with a radical shift in how it works and who is involved in producing it, which is is almost wholly absent from the public story.
Changing the narrative
That’s why, with #socialcarefuture and our diverse network, we’re working to produce and begin telling a story to marshal public support for our vision and ideas of how we can create a brighter future together.
As the godfather of framing Professor George Lakoff explains:
‘Frames are mental structures that shape the way we see the world. In politics our frames shape our social policies and the institutions we form to carry out policies. To change our frames is to change all of this. Framing is social change.’
Approaches to care and support that centre on working alongside people as equals to achieve and maintain meaning, purpose and connection are unlikely to thrive where the public framing of social care reduces it to ‘life and limb’ care, doing little more than ‘looking after vulnerable people’.
We will only succeed in moving the kinds of solutions curated and promoted by the Social Care Innovation Network from the margins to the mainstream, when we change public understanding of what care and support does and how it works when it is working well.
Reasons to care
Moreover, we have to find a way to give people, including those not immediately affected, cause to value and care about it.
Research commissioned by #socialcarefuture into how social care was discussed during the 2019 election found that, between 27 October - 14 December 2019, social care tweets amounted to only 5% of the number concerning the NHS and just 2.5% of those concerning Brexit.
If we set our minds to it, we can build world-class approaches to supporting people across the life course, just as we can choose high-speed rail, or full-fibre broadband. But we have to make people believe it's possible. As the American communications expert Anat Shenker-Osorio has pointed out, Martin Luther King never gave an ‘I have a complaint’ speech.
We all want to live in the place we call home with the people and things that we love, doing what matters to us in communities where we look out for one another. Everyone has reason to value approaches that helps us to maintain or secure this vision.
The building blocks for achieving it are with us, they’re just not evenly distributed. Our desire to bring that future vision forward is why we have started work on changing how people talk about, think about and feel about social care.
Find out more about #socialcarefuture’s work to tell a better story here