Why the care sector needs a radical rethink and how brand can make a difference

Why Care needs a Rebrand

My mother made me promise her that I wouldn’t ever put her in a “care home”. She has a fundamental fear of losing her independence and clearly doesn’t believe that any such home would be very caring. Even as she recovers from a bad fall, she is reluctant to even consider light touch “care in the home”. Her prejudices against the whole sector run deep and are in stark contrast with her views about “our wonderful NHS”.

The care sector in the UK needs a radical rethink, restructure and a rebrand because, prejudices aside, the vital services provided to young people, those with complex care needs and our increasingly elderly population are under intense pressure yet more necessary than ever. Yet many providers lack the investment, imagination and incentive to deliver the care we would all want for our children, our partners and our parents should they ever need longer-term care.

This care usually happens hidden from view in thousands of residential care facilities or in people’s own homes. Some aspects of it are repetitive, mundane and let’s face it biologically basic. It’s typically low skilled and low paid with equally low expectations from all those involved.

As the poor relation of our National Health Service, Social Services struggles to meet the rising demand for and expectations of our care services. Behind the scenes a complex funding system pits the state, the private sector, the insurance industry and ordinary families against each other as we try to work out who should pay.

But it doesn’t need to be this way.

We need structural change

As a society we need to rethink what it means to be vulnerable, chronically ill or just very infirm and we need to decide how we want to treat those in need who fall outside the remit of the NHS. What exactly is good care?

Therein lies the biggest problem. We expect the NHS to look after us when we are ill. And it does. But we haven’t designed and provided for a system that will look after us when we are not acutely ill, but still in need of care.

Fixing the structural funding model for such a care system is no easy task, but it would take pressure off the NHS and lead to massive improvements in the way long term is care provided.

We need innovation in care

Long-term care, however young or old you are, should be a holistic experience combining expert clinical care, imaginative therapeutic activities and life-enhancing personal and social support.

There are pockets of real innovation happening in progressive players, often in the better funded private sector, but there isn’t a broader culture of sharing best practice and thinking beyond the basics. Good care does not need to be expensive.

With a heavy reliance on many small providers, the professionals working in care aren’t always open to new or better ways of working partly because they are not exposed to new ideas and are struggling to deal with immediate pressures such as staff shortages.

Whereas the NHS is a super organisation that is so large and complex it can be hard to realise cultural or technical change, we need a care sector that is more flexible and agile to deal with users’ changing needs over time. The concept of integrated care pathways is relatively new and yet it transforming how care is delivered and raising standards.

We need to change perceptions of the care sector

We all need to rethink the role and value of care so that we start to cherish it as much as our beloved NHS. But to achieve that we need to get a lot better about telling the positive human stories that will challenge and change perceptions – of both carers and those they care for.

We need these positive stories to encourage more people to work in care where there is the potential for flexible working, personal development, career progression and enjoyable teamwork. Working in care should be a respected role for people of all ages and backgrounds and it should be rewarding on a number of different levels: emotionally, professionally and financially. As we deal with the impact of Covid-19 what could encourage those who have previously worked in retail or hospitality to consider switching to work in care?

Only when we start to celebrate the people working in this sector in the same way we have celebrated our NHS heroes, and we understand the positive impact they have on the people they care for, will we start to change the prejudices of people like my mother.

Our recent work with the Active Care Group shows that it doesn’t take a lot of effort to celebrate the people at the heart of the organisation and create shared pride in what they achieve together. We created a culture driven by quality and helped fix a long term recruitment challenge as a result.

When we say that care needs a rebrand it’s not about the logo, it’s about the people and their passion for what they do. Discovering, defining and promoting this positive purpose is at the heart of our strategic branding process and we believe it’s at the root of transformational change for the care sector.

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