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Sustainable social care and the role of co-production

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Arnie King provides an overview on the role of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in social care and his organisation’s efforts to become more sustainable and inclusive. Arnie King is Equalities Lead for Manor Community, a provider of supportive living, domiciliary care, residential care and housing in Bristol and a member of Bristol Green Capital Partnership.

Manor Community is an adult social care provider, so we are fundamentally committed to supporting the independence of vulnerable people. This is a vital part of keeping all of our communities as sustainable as possible. Recently, the UN’s sustainable development goals have helped us think about the ways that we engage with sustainability on various fronts. For example, considering waste and well-being when working on the smaller, more intimate parts of our services but also challenging inequality and exclusion on a larger, social scale. What we have learnt, is that these levels are not separate at all.

We now believe the key to being genuinely sustainable or progressive is to understand that the issues and solutions are part of a wide-ranging, holistic environment. The separate goals set out by the UN are not really separate at all, and action to address them will only work when it is collaborative across multiple issues, communities and industries.

When we offer activities and resources for the people receiving our services to get actively involved in green, healthy living and natural space, we are amazed by the positivity they bring.  These have included ‘Junk-Free January’, where we encouraged healthy, organic and sustainable diets for a month. We also set up communal gardening on site and took part in a scheme that meant people we support dog sat for the community. We have also introduced the use of recycled paper and electric car charging at our office.

Our projects rely on a range of people and organisations to offer fulfilling opportunities. Care is only successful and in line with the sustainability goals when power is shared between the people expressing needs and the people designing and carrying out the collaborative services that meet these needs. This is called co-production and it is fortunately becoming the standard for values and best practice within our industry.

Social Care workforces are often relatively high in numbers of women and black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups. There are debates around causes and specifics of this claim but generally, this field is not dominated by white men. Unfortunately, this has not led to fair recognition of accomplishment or experience for the marginalised groups it serves. Women and BAME groups succeed time and time again in social care but are not rewarded enough within the industry or outside. Almost every other industry pays people at the same level more money than we can afford in social care and deliver career development more quickly. We believe that if social care is fairly and holistically integrated within our communities and culture, then sustainability risks may be mitigated.

The Gender Equality, Decent Work, Reduced Inequalities and Justice SDGs are all obtainable by fairly recognising the rare industry where marginalised groups can succeed. Whilst we are not funded well enough to do this financially, instead we create unconventional community engagement and crucially include the people we serve at every stage of design and production. For example, our staff members may design and facilitate sessions for local schools regarding their background and involvement in care and we can collaboratively design media to change the narrative that surrounds social care and its workforce’s demographic. This introduces co-production on an institutional level by ensuring the communities drive their own narratives.

Our vision to become a sustainable care provider can only be achieved in partnership and collaboration across our community. If you feel you have an opportunity that will help us all achieve these goals, then our team would love to hear about the work you do. Please get in touch at arnie.king@manorcommunity.co.uk with any opportunities or questions and hopefully we can work together to make Bristol truly sustainable.

Blog, Sustainable Development Goals, Future skills & leadership
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