As we continue to be challenged by the biggest crisis of a generation in Covid I have started this year feeling hopeful that with the vaccine we can now begin to turn the tide on this pandemic. With this hope for the brighter times that are on their way, it is critical that we ensure that 2021 also brings us much needed social care reform.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic The Health and Social Care sector has been continually challenged, exposing its fragility and vulnerability. From regulation to commissioning, funding and staffing we need reform but I believe there are opportunities to shape a more sustainable future for the social care system. We can recognise and reward our workforce, we can develop a longer-term funding model and we can reform social care in 2021.

Right now, the pandemic has pushed the strategic shift towards integration to be accelerated, however we need this shift to be sustainable and holistic in its approach. Integration should consider the many touch points of people’s lives and how services could work to meet needs better together. There is an opportunity to ensure providers, service users, families and communities are consulted and engaged to inform the process at every stage.

Sadly we’ve seen successive Governments have promised to reform of adult social care yet have ultimately failed to deliver. There have been a series of government reports on social care reform – two green papers, four white papers, and various consultations – as well as five independent commissions. Yet there has been no solution to the growing crisis.

We have been among care providers who have embraced the use of the care badges the government created, after canvassing our staff. We were keen to seize on a welcome shift in the repositioning of social care; starting to place it on a more equal footing with the NHS and exemplifying the value the sector adds to society. We do, however, want to make sure that this is not a hollow branding exercise and that tangible steps are taken to genuinely integrate health and social care and find the funding solutions the sector so desperately needs, regardless of the pandemic.

Ultimately in order to deliver long-lasting, real, equitable and sustainable funding solutions for social care, proposals must transcend political and institutional boundaries. They must focus on a reappraisal of the way health and social care services are delivered in this country, with emphasis on real integration and preventive care.

I believe that we are now presented with a timely opportunity for the state, public sector, voluntary and community sector organisations and the public to have difficult conversations about the future expectations and responsibilities relating to adult social care. The Disabilities Trust will be pushing hard to ensure that 2021 is finally the year when social care reform creates a system where the best possible care can be provided to our most vulnerable and the workforce are afforded the recognition and reward for their hard work. We cannot start another year with a system in crisis.