If a friend or relative found it difficult to cope with everyday activities like bathing or dressing, as social workers we should know better than most where to find information and support. We would know the questions to ask and the networks and services most likely to help. But many people, quite understandably, don’t always have the knowledge and insight that we do.
Kate Baxter, Research Fellow in the Social Policy Research Unit at the University of York, explains (with the assistance of colleagues Emily Heavey and Yvonne Birks) how new resources have been developed to help self-funders mitigate this disadvantage, as she now explains…
Self-funders, as most of you will know or guess, are people who pay for social care from their own funds. Some self-fund because they are not eligible for council funding, whilst others assume they’re not eligible or choose not to be assessed.
Despite advisers’ best intentions, the information they provide can sometimes be delivered using language that is unfamiliar to their intended audience. Instead of feeling empowered and knowledgeable about care options, people often end up feeling overwhelmed and confused.
We spoke to self-funders and their relatives, and to the people they approach for information and advice about social care. These included local council contact centres, community-based social workers, hospital-based social workers and other discharge staff, advisers from voluntary organisations, managers of care homes and home care agencies, and GPs.
It was clear that self-funders and their relatives found it a challenge to find information, in part because they did not know where to look or what to ask. People don’t tend to think about social care until they need it. When they do need it, it’s usually at a crisis point.
The self-funders and relatives we spoke to said they wanted simple information about taking those very first steps to finding information about care.
We also found that advisers from local authorities sometimes felt guilty for having only limited time to spend with self-funders. Meanwhile, GPs confessed to being under-informed at times about the social care services available or appropriate for patients seeking advice.
Both groups felt that a simple leaflet, or a way to signpost people to basic information held in one place, would be helpful.
All this research has led to the creation of the Getting Informed website. Visitors to the site will find a downloadable leaflet called ‘Getting informed, getting prepared: first steps to finding care and support for older people’. The leaflet can be printed in various formats and is also available in audio form.
The site also features a short film, ‘Finding care and support for older people’, to help them and their relatives get started on the search for care and support information.
The film is seven minutes long and tells ‘Heather’s story’ of finding information about care for her husband, and makes suggestions about other ways people might go about finding care.
Although the resources we have produced are based on findings from research with self-funders, anyone looking for information about social care should find them useful.
We’ve provided these resources to help self-funders and others new to social care. They are free and there for everyone to use. Take a few minutes to look at the website, print the leaflet, watch the film, and please encourage others to do so.
This guest blog was produced in collaboration with Kate’s colleagues Emily Heavey and Yvonne Birks.