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Channelling the zeitgeist? Social care in a post-truth era

17 November 2016

NCF Blog by Vic Rayner


Oxford dictionaries have announced that ‘post-truth’ is its international word for 2016. The definition of post-truth is “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotional and personal belief”. Whilst there are many who would not necessarily advocate the recent outcomes of ‘post-truth’ politics, the power of the personal within this is undeniable. 

This is key news for those inside social care grappling with how to get better engagement across the general population about the importance of social care. The importance of this was emphasised to me on 16th November, when there was an Opposition day debate on social care, proposing a motion which included an appeal to “bring forward promised funding for 2019-20 to address the current funding crisis”. Despite large volumes of research based evidence quoted highlighting the impact of funding cuts to social care provision, and where the words expressed by politicians across the political spectrum included those of the Health Secretary stating he “recognise the scale and seriousness of the issues face by the social care system”, the motion was defeated (the full Hansard transcript makes interesting reading and can be found here). So how do we ensure that politicians cannot fail to not only demonstrate an understanding of the level of need, which many within the debate appeared to effectively grasp, but more importantly do something quickly about it. 

Recent history of post-truth politics would appear to suggest that the focus of successful campaigns have tapped into emotions and personal beliefs that could be characterised around self-interest. Along this track, I have previously advocated the adoption of the #metest, flagrantly poaching Andrea Sutcliffe’s hugely helpful CQC mantra around the #mumtest, as shorthand for quality of service. I suggest the #metest because I feel in this self-orientated ‘post-truth’ society, it is essential that appeals by social care to politicians and the public alike need to help them position themselves as current or future recipients of care. 

I know that there are real challenges about this, as for many it means confronting a future that they do not wish to face. It means getting people to recognise that at some point they will need additional care and support, whether for a fixed term period or for a more permanent time. This is tough, but there is much that we can learn from fantastic campaigns such as #dyingmatters which has tackled head on the emotive subject of death, and brought together people from all walks of life to understand that unless they talk about this issue, they will not be able to influence and inform their own experience. 
So, I completely agree we need to continue to build the evidence, state the facts and reinforce the impact – as one thing we can be sure on from history – that politics and public opinion swing with the pendulum of time. However, alongside this we need to be packing a powerful emotional punch, and making sure that something akin to a #metest for social care provides people with a framework within which to build their personal belief about theirs, and by association, others right to excellent social care. I believe that this approach will also provide added value in recognising the importance of those who deliver these vital services under growing and sustained pressure. 

Executive Director



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