We need to rethink our care of our older population. Presently we seem to see our older population as a burden and the focus is on developing an aged care sector to look after them very often in isolation or removed from society.

We seem to be living a permanent culture of crisis with regards our older population, with a focus on costs, waiting lists and putting out fires.

Would it not be better to move towards a more positive outlook, where we focus on outcomes, communities helping themselves and the opportunities there are to develop a service economy with the prospect of jobs being created in every town in the county?

A sector where the older person and their family are in charge, deciding what their care looks like, who provides it and where funding issues don’t dominate the debate.

If we want to develop a social care sector that is fit to meet the challenges coming down the road, I firmly believe this has to come from grass root initiatives, embedded in local communities helping themselves.

Too often the debate around social care is rooted in funding, with not enough focus being put on innovation and change. After all, funding has increased for social care over the past number of years but it is questionable if outcomes have improved?

What we need is local leadership, fostering local initiatives that leverage local assets and address local problems. The Slantecare decentralisation of the HSE to regional hubs is one small step in this direction and hopefully a move away from the blinkered delivery of existing configured services.

We also need the State to encourage these local initiatives by being willing to listen and follow, rather than just impose. To move away from commissioning what they think communities need, to letting go of power and control and differing to local knowledge and needs.

If this is too happen the State have to embrace risk and be willing to hand over resources that can fund change.

This move to the local must involve trust, as presently we spend huge amounts of our social care budget on monitoring and control, which would surely be better spent on delivering services. This placing of trust is not the State abandoning its duties but rather the empowering of the Local and individuals, to enhance lives and communities.

If we are to have a social care sector that really delivers for our older and disabled population, the role of the state has to change from one of excessive bureaucracy, monitoring and control, to one of openness to change, new ideas and trust. The role has to move from one of managing under pressure budgets to one of being an engine for change and empowering local communities.