Swansea University researchers have been taking a closer look at the role prevention can play in improving social care for our most vulnerable.
Acting earlier to reduce poor health and wellbeing outcomes is central to recent UK care policy especially as we face the demands of an ageing population.
However, Dr Simon Read, from the School of Health and Social Care, says what prevention involves, particularly in social care, is a complicated issue especially for financially strained local government during a cost-of-living crisis. Against this backdrop Dr Read and his fellow researchers have examined the preventative policy agenda in an article for the British Journal of Social Work.
Based on a Welsh Government funded evaluation of the Social Services and Well-being Act (Wales), the article explores how prevention is discussed by local government and social services in Wales in an era of austerity.
The Act came into force in 2016 and provides the legal framework for improving the wellbeing of people who need care and support, carers who need support, and for transforming social services in Wales.
Dr Read said: “Prevention has become a central pillar of UK policy on health and social care, but how best to implement a preventative social care agenda is still not completely understood.
“A core concern behind this research is that preventative care and support can have a powerful influence on people’s lives, but that this influence is hard to grasp through the kinds of population-wide metrics that governments tend to favour.”
The researchers found a fusion of principles around prevention, bringing together values-based ideas such as independence, well-being and doing the ‘right thing’, with ideas of financial sustainability and managing reduced budgets.
While the overarching principles of the Act have been well-received by both professionals and the public, financial constraints have had an impact on just how prevention is actually carried out on a local level, especially as its benefits are often inherently long-term.
When faced with difficult choices as to which initiatives to fund, the harder-to-measure nature of preventative care and support leaves it vulnerable relative to initiatives where impacts are known, and more easily measured and understood.
Dr Read is a Health and Care Research Wales Social Care Research Fellow, and is currently looking into the best preventative social care practices for older people who are receiving some form of care or support, including those living with dementia.
He said: “In conditions of reduced budgets, history shows us that very meaningful preventative initiatives can be cut from budgets to detrimental effect. My Fellowship is looking to demystify the idea of preventative social care, shed light on best practice across Wales and think through how best to sustain these advances.”