The policy voice of welfare reform is evident on a daily basis, from coverage of the current Northern Ireland impasse to senior government ministers advising they ‘could live on £53 a week’. Since 2010, welfare reform has been rapidly drawing in previously unaffected sickness and disability benefits and claimants from the welfare periphery. People experiencing sickness and disability are more vulnerable to poverty, particularly those of working age. This may also impact on the ability to retain independence, contribute to society and be valued; reinforcing existing barriers to equality. Never before have frontline advice and support services across all sectors been more stretched – and under-resourced.
The often forgotten voices of welfare reform are those health, social care and welfare professionals supporting people affected by disability and ill-health. In current climates, advising and supporting people affected by disability and ill-health can be stressful and testing. Taking time for reflection can prove difficult.
While reflective practice is not a simple cure-all for social and welfare ills, networking and learning helps front line professionals share and exchange skills and knowledge, removing sometimes unhelpful boundary demarcations between staff and service sectors.
The outcome? Professional experience and support is improved; likewise, support for patients, claimants, their families, partners and carers is improved.
Within my work as Macmillan Lecturer I encounter a range of health, social care and welfare professionals sharing and reflecting on their learning and practice online, establishing connections and networks across health and social care sectors. This is one space where health, welfare and social care professionals can join together, share their concerns and make their voices louder.