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How social media can help social care

Sometimes when I write these blogs, I worry that I come across as being too negative – flagging up the problems in social care and ignoring the good things that are happening. Time to set that right.

It really gladdened my heart when I attended the Out of the Box conference in Birmingham earlier this week, organised by Patient Opinion, a social enterprise that shares users opinions of the NHS, which was one of the most positive social care events I’ve been to.

The conference focused on how social media – blogging, videos, audio recordings, forums, networks and such like – is and can potentially be used in the future to benefit social care, and was refreshingly free of negativity and cynicism, with a focus not on theory but on practice and how social media can be used in the sector as a force for good.

Out of the Box covered 2 of my main professional interests – social care and social media – so for me this was great; having worked on social media projects that involve adult services, I can testify to how these can work, but it is always good to see what others are doing and learning from that.

It was also not like a regular conference with speakers, err, speaking and everyone else listening, everybody was encouraged to get involved and give their point of view, or take part in the video that was being made of the day, or just chat – or Twitter – in the intervals.

Some of the main points to come out of the morning sessions (I couldn’t stay for the afternoon) were:

  • People want to know about other people’s experiences. Too often the media focuses on the heroic or tragic, but in reality people with illnesses/health conditions want to read about everyday stories – including those who struggle to cope – to feel that they are not alone. The internet can do this
  • It is the users that are driving the Big Society through the use of networks etc, not the government
  • With the internet and social networking sites like Twitter, everyone now has a voice and can be heard; 15 years ago one of the few ways to get heard was to have a letter published in a newspaper
  • It is now much easier for people to collaborate, build communities and campaign for or against things and bring about change – and groups already have done
  • Social media offers opportunities to influence the ‘off-line’ world, especially in areas such as older people’s isolation
  • Social media is relatively cheap and cost-effective.

With the internet and social networking becoming established technologies now and user rates continuing to increase this will only grow in the future.

I believe that social media can help to engage service users, staff and carers in ways that were simply not possible even 10 years ago. From the projects that I heard about, and the ones I have been involved in myself, I know there is massive potential in this to help social care staff, service users and carers, and best of all it is user-driven and democratic – everyone has a voice and can use it to influence what happens to them and their community.

Hopefully there will be more conferences like this in the future, because it is really good to see enthusiastic and positive people in the sector who believe they can bring about change for people.

Also, if you have a Twitter account, check out the hashtag #box10 for more responses and opinions from people who attended.

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Budget – predictions for social care

What will be in today’s Budget for social care? In the words of magician Paul Daniels, “not a lot”.

The focus has thus far been on stamp duty, fuel duty and measures to help business and stimulate the fragile recovery. It will also be setting the stage for the financial/economic debates in the forthcoming election. Social care hasn’t really had a look in.

From what I can glean, reading around various predictions and what has come from Whitehall so far, the only measure that will directly affect people in receipt of social care is a possible rise in benefits.

While the rises are only expected to be small – 2% on pensions, 1.5% on other benefits – at least the government hasn’t stuck to its usual formula of basing the raise on the RPI inflation rate; last September it stood at -1.4%.

However, I suspect these rises won’t be met with much joy. With the cost of living increasing at the moment – notably food, utilities and fuel – the raise won’t cover it.

Elsewhere, I wonder if the Chancellor will make any reference to the proposed National Care Service or the white paper on adult social care funding – rumoured to be published this week – in his funding plans.

There has been very little mention of this in the pre-Budget build-up, but if the white paper is coming, the Chancellor may give some pointers when he outlines where funds will be going in the coming months.

I will be watching the Budget with interest and will blog and Twitter on this later in the day.

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Filed under adult social care, learning disabilities, Mental health, Social care funding