The new head of adult social care for Nottinghamshire has said the county has a national reputation for being a leader in the field, but warned that significant national changes are needed in the future.
Melanie Brooks started the new job – responsible for a budget of around £330m – earlier this year.
She took over from David Pearson, who retired after 36 years working for the county council, in which time he was recognised with a CBE for services to the industry, and named as one of the most 100 most influential people in the health sector.
The new boss praised Mr Pearson, and said in part because of the work he did, no ‘wholesale’ changes were needed.
But she warned that without changes to the way social care was funding the future was ‘unsustainable’.
She said: “I’m definitely not here to completely change direction, it’s more about the nuances.
“In the last two months we were the best performing in the country in terms of not having delays getting people out of hospital, and hospitals in this area are particularly challenged.
“We have real success in terms of saying ‘if someone has a home that’s where they should be.’
“The thing to crack will be how do we get them not to go into hospital in the first place.”
A long-term plan for how the Government intends to fund social care – known as a green paper – is expected to be published later this year, but has already been delayed several times.
Mrs Brooks said there were real concerns about the long-term future of social care.
“My biggest worry is after 10 years of austerity we are still seeing planned budget reductions of local authorities.
“I think it has to change. We can’t afford the system we’ve got, with the NHS 10 year plan is trying to recognise the fact that demand is far outstripping the budget.
“Nationally, we’ve had a 25 percent decrease in our budget, but demand is increasing and that’s not sustainable.
“These are the most vulnerable people in the country and in the county. The current system, particularly for younger adults who have got different expectations about living independently – we do need a significant shift.”
Last year, Nottingham City Council suspended its involvement in a project known as the integrated care system (ICS), which is designed to improve cooperation between the health and social care sectors, and is now run by David Pearson.
Mrs Brooks said: “There is real ambition to take it forward. If we are really taking a broader approach then all parts need to be part of that.”