Annie Gunner Logan Shares Her Amazing Insights into Adult Social CareCaroline Laurenson
Estimated reading time: 13 minutes
The more I learn about the world of adult social care, the more I am in awe of the amazing work that each person does to empower and support people to live their best lives. To be involved in even a small way feels really special.
Over the last year, we’ve seen and experienced significant changes due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The impact on social care has been immense, but it has also highlighted the urgent need for improved sector support given the critical role they serve in society. With service deficiencies magnified by the pandemic together with a renewed appreciation for care workers, issues can no longer be ignored.
It was my pleasure to talk to Annie Gunner Logan, CEO of the Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland (CCPS) about her background and how CCPS supports the social care sector. Discussing how social support services have developed over time, we also explore where these services are heading considering the current climate in Scotland.
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How did you get into working in social care?
Like most people, I ended up where I am today via a circuitous route. I can’t say that I left school wanting to get into social care, but here I am 40 years later. After studying languages at university, I had a bit of a short-lived academic career in France. During this time I realised that my real interests were in social policy and how governments responded to social needs.
I decided to retrain and qualify in social policy. My first step was to secure a job as an information officer with the Scottish Association of Mental Health (SAMH). I moved from there to the NHS where I worked on a project called Health Search Scotland. As one of the first projects to support people to access information about their health directly over the phone rather than through a medical professional, this became one of the precursors to what is now NHS 24. From there, I went to work for an organisation called Children in Scotland, which is the national agency for children’s services.
While I was at the NHS a new organisation called Community Care Providers Scotland – now known as the Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland – caught my attention. Formed to represent social care providers in the non-profit and voluntary sector, they work to support and ensure an environment that champions quality of care. So that’s CCPS, and I’ve been there for just over 20 years.
You must have seen a lot of changes over that time then?
When I first came into adult social care in the late nineties it was a really transformational time due to the large closure program of long-stay hospitals that began in the late eighties. Before that people with learning disabilities and mental health problems more often than not were institutionalised. There was a powerful human rights movement that identified these institutions as a human rights catastrophe – if you don’t have a medical need to be in a hospital, you shouldn’t be in one. Instead, people were supported to live in community based alternatives by social care providers, the majority of which were designed by voluntary organisations. Many CCPS members were there at the time, doing this extremely important work.
While community living was an improvement over previous hospital care arrangements, people’s choices were limited and their support needs were decided for them. We are still on a journey to empower individuals to make their own decisions and design their own support. When the Social Care Self-directed Support Act (2013) was introduced, what didn’t happen was a change to the systems surrounding it, particularly the procurement systems. However, it’s since been realised how damaging commodification and underfunding is to how social care support is delivered. For social care to properly empower individuals, we know that it is not about them being in services at all, but for them to be able to personalise the support they receive. This is what self-directed support is all about and although it has been quite a long journey, the next period is going to be the most exciting!
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
For me personally, the people I work with at CCPS are the most rewarding part of my job. We’re a membership association with over 80 members across the third sector and nonprofit providers of social care in Scotland. You would be very hard pressed to find a more inspiring group of leaders. The CEOs of each of these organisations are absolutely extraordinary. Their dedication and commitment to empowering the people that their services support is remarkable. Being a part of something that changes people’s lives is, in itself, very rewarding. That’s what nourishes me in this role.
Tell us more about CCPS, and the organisation’s role.
We help to identify and represent the interests and concerns of members so that they can do their best work and maximise their impact to meet social needs. A big part of this is helping to distil what their common interests are. When you’ve got over 80 different organisations who are all independent of each other and report to their own board of governors, then that is quite a task in itself. The agenda for all of these organisations coalesces around environmental factors like the sustainability of funding for social care, policy and practice development, regulations and legislation.
We spend a significant amount of our time scrutinising policy and reviewing draft legislation to understand how it might impact our members. Is it going to help them do their best work or not? If it is, then we’ll help develop it; if it isn’t, then we challenge it.
We also provide a platform for members to speak to each other and be more collaborative. This is important because social care is a very competitive environment. We facilitate and provide the opportunity for organisations to work together on the issues that they have in common. In the past this has been tricky, but I think we are definitely moving from a culture of competition towards that of collaboration.
How has the last year been for CCPS and your members?
I can’t lie, it has been very challenging. When Covid struck, any plans we had basically went out the window as the entire organisation had to pivot towards supporting our members with the rapid changes: helping members access PPE, maintenance of their services during lockdown, testing and vaccinations as well as supporting family contact in a lockdown environment.
Social care has absolutely been at the frontline of all of this, particularly in care homes. However, now we are at the stage of talking about how we are going to use this experience to make things better and build a recovery for social care. This is already underway with the cabinet secretary commissioning Derek Feeley, who used to be the NHS chief executive, to review social care in Scotland. He published his report in February which is fantastic! We were able to provide input through our own decades of analysis, therefore a lot of his recommendations reflect what we have been saying.
Covid was a huge challenge, but it has exposed some of the flaws in the system and now I think there is a shared commitment to do something about it. Rather frustratingly, some people in positions of authority and political power appeared to see the problems for the first time during the pandemic; whereas people like me within the sector have been banging on about them for decades! The fact that they’ve now acknowledged these and want to do something about them though is what matters.
What’s interesting is that all the political parties have now included social care within their manifestos and talk about the urgency of implementing system changes. We decided to host a pre-election hustings for the first time because social care was so strongly featured across the parties. That in itself is a really good sign. I think it would be quite difficult now for any party or government to de-prioritise social care at this point.
Are there any initiatives that you are currently working on?
There will be a bit of a wait now to see what the government wants to do about the Feeley report recommendations, but we are ploughing on.
‘Big Ideas’ was something that we started pre-Feeley. For a long time, it has been felt that the competitive tendering processes for social care doesn’t work. ‘Big Ideas’ look at the alternative models to the current competitive market. The report isn’t a blueprint of what should be done, or a new system to impose on social care providers. We’re trying to create an environment and culture where people work together to find their own alternatives and solutions.
The other big initiative we’re involved in at the moment is around what we call fair work. The pay and status of social care workers is very low because the competitive tendering and commissioning environment has created a very Amazon like environment. In a lot of home care, people get paid by the minute, which is crazy. There isn’t a single other public service that does it this way. The social care workforce is undervalued and underpaid.
We’re currently having at least four meetings a week about this. The chair of the fair work in social care working group will publish the findings to the cabinet secretary at the end of May, with recommendations for things like minimum terms and conditions for social care workforce, minimum standards for effective voice for the workforce and the ruling out of misuse of zero hour contracts.
What are your views on the use of technology in adult social care?
CCPS has a digital program where we’re trying to support organisations to embrace and adopt technology. There are three levels, the first one is at a service level with what I would call the gadgets, such as telecare and assisted living. Covid has accelerated us into adopting technology at a greater speed, particularly digital communication methods like Zoom to connect with people when we can’t be there in person.
Pre-covid, one of the biggest drivers for implementing technology solutions was saving money. The perception was people are expensive and gadgets are not, but I think that this is a misconception. Covid has also taught us the limits of technology, as it can never be a replacement for human interaction, especially when that is actually what people need and want.
The second level is how digital systems can help organisations run more efficiently. We support our members to look at things like workforce rota management, finances, logistics, etc. The last level is data, which is how digital can be used strategically to inform and improve services. Data is probably the most challenging bit because of the complexity of managing the access and interfaces. How do we create data platforms that everybody can access and feed into so that we have a holistic system?
Requirements for reporting are often set before anyone has really thought through how they’re going to be used. And because of the culture that we’re in which is very risk averse, with micromanagement and low levels of trust, a lot of social care providers monitor at a very fine level of detail. They feel I’ve got to collect this data because one day I might be called to account for it or I need to be able to show how I’ve spent the money, how I’ve used the resources, how many hours of support has been used, etc. A lot of this data just “sits in a drawer”.
The key question to be asked here is does the data help make social care more sustainable? Is it going to empower people to make their own choices? Is it going to lead to better quality? Again, Covid has given us all a kick up the backside about the value of digital, but also I think it should make us much more thoughtful about how, why and to what end we use it
What advice do you have for people interested in moving into working in social care?
Do it, just do it.
Back in 2005 to 2006, Willie Roe did a review of social work services, including social care. He called his report ‘Changing Lives’ because that’s what it’s about. A lot of public services are about fixing things or achieving things. If you’re in the fire service, you put fires out. If you’re in the police it’s about arrest levels or community safety. In the NHS, it’s about cures & interventions. With social care, that’s really not what we’re about. It’s not like “oh, here’s a problem. I’m going to fix it”.
Social care is about standing alongside people who have challenges in their lives. Sometimes that’s a disability, their mental health, an impairment they were born with or something that happened to them such as domestic violence or an addiction. In social care you’re supporting people who are dealing with big challenges to be able to engage in society, just like everyone else. In social care you’re standing alongside that person and you’re supporting them to live their best life. Sometimes you can help them to overcome these challenges and sometimes you can’t, but you’re still standing alongside them to help change their life for the better.
I started off this piece saying how in awe I am of the work being done in social care. What makes this even more amazing is that the majority of this is delivered by voluntary organisations who are moved to make meaningful improvements to people’s lives. Imagine if we all had this much passion for the work we do?
This piece could have easily been twice as long. I think this interview has been one of the most insightful conversations I have ever had and I hope you have enjoyed getting to know Annie and the work that CCPS do. A lot of what Annie spoke about has also been highlighted in my previous interviews with Donald Macaskill from Scottish Care and Linda Gray from Inspire PTL. Do check these out on the blog!
If you want to keep up-to-date with Annie and the CCPS activities checkout their website.
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