Reimagining Adult Social Care: designing a new system

17 November 2015

Reimagining Adult Social Care‘If we were able to start designing adult social care from a blank slate, and build a system based on the evidence of what people want and what is effective, what would that system look like?’

RiPfA’s new Evidence Review: Reimagining Adult Social Care reflects on the journey of social care in recent years, examines the progress made and the distance still to travel. It is accompanied by an open access Executive Summary giving an overview of the key messages.

‘Our preconceptions of what we already know about adult social care hinder us from thinking in truly creative ways. This piece of work is about gaining new insights and fresh perspectives. Imagine the possibilities, if we had all of the evidence available, but no rules about how things needed to work. Imagine if we could just base a new social care system on what was really needed and what really worked.’

David Walden, Editor, Reimagining Adult Social Care

The review calls for a new imagining of a social care system and suggests approaches to achieve this vision, focusing on two questions as part of this journey:

First, what is social care trying to achieve and how?

The goal is to provide dignified, safe and respectful care to everyone, maximising their abilities, wishes and wellbeing, within financial constraints, and without inadvertently creating dependency in the way support is provided.

Second, what is critical to delivering successful social care?

Through consultation with sector leaders alongside the evidence from research, Reimagining Adult Social Care confronts the challenges facing adult social care today to identify four broad themes as lying at the heart of any new social care system. It goes on to examine these in turn, looking at what we already know and what are the burning questions still to be answered.


  • How do we ensure people are treated with dignity and respect?
  • How can we regulate care to ensure effective safeguarding?

Prevention and independence

  • How can we prevent or delay the onset of more severe needs and enable people to remain independent for longer?

Involvement, co-production and advocacy

  • How should we involve those needing care and support in its design and delivery?
  • How should social care be responsive to the voice of the people?

Developing the workforce

  • How can we recruit, retain and sustain a skilled and resilient workforce?
  • What key qualities should social care staff possess?

Expert authors and commentators drew on evidence from: academic research; practitioner expertise; and the experiences of people accessing services. They considered these three sources together to construct a rich understanding of each particular issue and paint a picture that is both based in evidence, and responsive to the real world.

Drawing on this body of evidence, Reimagining Adult Social Care offers suggestions to underpin the development and provision of support and care, highlighting the importance of:

  • Keeping the individual at the centre of care.
  • Adopting evidence-informed approaches to the design and delivery of services which give equal weighting to different types of evidence, including the lived experience of people accessing services, and practitioner wisdom.
  • Further developing the evidence base around Making Safeguarding Personal, to find out what works best to protect people from abuse and neglect.
  • Promoting independence as a means not only to improve individual wellbeing, but which also saves money.
  • A values-driven workforce who are motivated, resilient and have the right skills and knowledge to develop and enable their practice.

The review demonstrates how much progress has been made. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that there are still areas where policies and practice still exist that are inconsistent with the evidence on what works, or where there are simply gaps in the evidence.

There is no ‘golden bullet’ that can solve many of the current problems. But this review is intended to remind us of what a good social care system could look like, where current practice needs to change, the range of options that are available to us in practice, and what we need to work on to make this vision a reality.

Read the Evidence Review: Reimagining Adult Social Care.

Read the Executive Summary: Reimagining Adult Social Care (open access resource).

Reimagining Adult Social Care: looking to the evidence

Partnership Conference, 10 March 2016, Birmingham

Our annual conference will draw on the chapters of our Evidence Review: Reimagining social care to explore what social care would ideally look like if we just examined the evidence. The four key themes of the day are Safeguarding, Workforce, Involving People and Prevention. The conference will take us back to the roots of evidence-informed practice by weaving messages from research with the experience of practice and the voice of people accessing services. Expect to hear from academics, sector leaders and people who use services. With plenty of time scheduled for discussion and debate, our flagship event is not to be missed.

 Find out more about the conference.


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