Small 'r' reablement
by Jo Salter
Reablement sometimes feels in danger of being lost in translation. The idea of 'reabling' people (with a small r) – restoring and supporting them to lead full and independent lives – is second nature across housing, health and social care; it is their reason for being. The service commonly known as reablement (which can be thought of as 'capital r reablement'), on the other hand, refers specifically to the 6-week period of support offered to people at risk of losing their independence, often following a stay in hospital.
Since it was introduced in the early 2000s, reablement has remained almost exclusively the preserve of local authority social care teams (with a few independent providers creeping into the market). Subsequently, 'social care thinking' has shaped the way that reablement has developed.
Demos research, published today, argues that the government’s transformation of health and social care is setting the stage for a radical reshaping of reablement – with all of the organisations who have an interest in restoring people to independence contributing their own knowledge and experience. In particular, the report argues that social housing is an untapped resource, which can be mobilized to deliver better quality reablement services, with longer-lasting outcomes.
Social housing can add value to reablement precisely because housing providers think differently about the people who they are helping to social care. Social housing has a long-term commitment to its residents, and its focus is not just on building individual capacity, but on building the capacity of communities and neighbourhoods – and these things would be reflected in a housing-oriented reablement service. Neither way of thinking is more valuable than the other – both are needed for a holistic view of the person and their recovery.
The launch of the report this morning was unusual in bringing to the table speakers from across health, housing, and social care – Stephen Dorrell MP, Chair of the Health Select Committee, Chris Munday, Managing Director of Care and Support at Midland Heart, and Professor David Croisdale-Appleby, Chair of Skills for Care. The audience, similarly, was drawn from across the three sectors.
The consensus that emerged from today’s event was that health, social care and housing have shared aspirations, and need to start viewing each other as resources to be leveraged in to fulfill a common purpose.
Moving away from viewing 'big r reablement' as something that only social workers are qualified to do, to viewing 'small r reablement' as something that social housing providers and others can support will require a lot more opportunities for the three areas to engage. This is a torch that Health and Wellbeing Boards should take up.