Emerging and expanding trends in adult and children’s care services – and how to overcome them

The demand for social care services is on the rise across the UK. This surge is placing an additional pressure on the adult care and children’s services sector which was already struggling with the high caseloads prior to the pandemic. Sweeping reforms, changing focus and the impacts of innovation are transforming the sector. Despite these challenges, there is opportunity for the social care sector to transform and move ahead by investing in its people.

In this blog we will explore the emerging and expanding trends in adult and children’s care that need to be navigated in order to achieve its transformation ambitions.

Mental health and wellbeing of care workers

Mental health and wellbeing of social care workers has been at the forefront of discussion in both the adult care and children’s services sectors since the pandemic. Key concerns involve addressing mental health issues among service users, improving access to mental health services support, reducing work-related stress and improving social care worker wellbeing. Fortunately, many care organisations are being proactive in easing the workload on care workers, from offering shorter shifts to providing mental health counselling. Early observations suggest that some of these measures are having a positive effect – according to a 2022 survey, workers had an average happiness ranking of 7.9 (in which 1 was ‘very unhappy’ and 10 ‘very happy’).

Person-centred care

Person-centred care is gaining traction in the adult social care sector in the UK. It was launched as part of the 2008 Health and Social Care Act with a focus on providing care plans that meet the specific needs and preferences of individuals, whilst promoting their autonomy and dignity. This approach emphasises a holistic and personalised attitude to care by recognising diversity in backgrounds, cultures and values. To improve this strategy, there’s a pressing need for more knowledge about the care recipients and providers which can be achieved through an increase in data collection, analysis and actionable recommendations.

To support this expansion of data-driven support, the UK government is providing £50 million in new funding for 2024/25, focusing on streamlining data collection, bridging data gaps, improving access to data and enhancing insights. Additionally, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has started assessing local authorities’ delivery of adult social care responsibilities since April 2023. Overall, these measures aim to empower those needing to benefit from their local authority, their care providers and central government being able to fully understand their care journey and better plan for their care.

Emphasis on early intervention and prevention in child services

Greater focus is being placed on the role of early intervention and prevention in child services. These forms of support are aimed at improving outcomes for children and mitigating risks. They are a part of a “continuum of support”, helping families who may not meet the threshold for statutory intervention. Intervention and prevention services can occur at any stage in a child’s or young person’s life. Services can be delivered to parents, children or whole families. While national safeguarding guidance emphasises the importance of early assistance for families, the form services take varies between local areas.

Central government is supporting this shift towards early intervention, as outlined in the February 2023 Stable Homes, Built on Love report which details the implementation strategy for reforming children’s social care in England. The strategy aims to redirect resources from crisis intervention to more effective family support, unfolding in two phases:

  • Phase 1: An initial investment of £200 million over two years to address urgent issues and lay the groundwork for reform
  • Phase 2: After the two years, the government will focus on “embedding reform everywhere” to scale up the approaches tested and bring forward new legislation to enforce the change of children’s services focus.

Safeguarding and child protection

Recent debates within the children’s services sector have been centred around enhancing child protection and safeguarding. Key areas of focus include refining policies and practices, promoting collaboration between agencies, and strengthening measures against abuse and neglect. The government’s 2023 report outlines plan to expand current protection policies and bolster safeguarding in social care, aligning with simultaneous reforms in early intervention and prevention in childcare.

Technology and innovation

Technology is being considered as the solution to many of the challenges in social care, with hope for its transformative potential in care delivery. Innovations such as assistive technologies, telecare expansion, electronic records and digital solutions aim to enhance efficiency, communication and support for independent living. Key components of this strategy include device development, support app deployment, data collection, recruitment of tech-savvy care workers and upskilling existing staff.

Target areas for technological advancements for all aspects of social care include:

  • Hospital discharge notifications
  • Digital care records
  • Remote support and monitoring technology
  • Falls prevention
  • Virtual care assistants
  • AI and robotics.

Although discussions are currently more focused on planning than implementation, the goal is to enhance the delivery of adult and children’s services in the UK, making them more personalised, efficient, resilient and cost-effective.

Seismic shifts

The adult and children’s care services sector in the UK is undergoing real seismic change.  From greater reliance on technology and refocusing children’s services, to the tighter integration of health and social care across England, innovation, reform and other changes will impact who, when, why and where care is delivered and reshape the goals and targets the sector must reach. However, these new initiatives will likely task the industry with more responsibility within the wider healthcare sector and, initially at least, may further exacerbate the current challenges of providing care.

So where does this leave the adult care and children’s services sector?

Training to reskill and upskill current care workers can offset many of these endemic challenges. Training support workers to better manage their work can alleviate stress and reduce workloads, which in turn drives better organisational Employer Value Proposition to make a career in care more attractive. Training can also help organisations handle the necessary advance of technology into social care and secure workforce efficiencies that save money which can be ploughed back into the sector to improve pay and conditions – further supporting recruitment and retention and helping to stem the current 30% worker attrition rate.

In short, the future of social care is with its people – training can make them better workers, which in turn can make the sector stronger, better and more resilient.

In our next blog, we’ll explore the ways in which targeted upskilling, reskilling and specialist training initiatives may provide solutions to the sector’s current challenges.

To find out how Brook Street Social Care can support your business, please get in touch.