SOCIAL care bosses in Northumberland are looking into ways they can improve social care in the county amid ever-rising demand.

Northumberland has an ageing population, with the 2021 census identifying that the area has the highest average age in the North East and a significantly higher average age than England – 48 compared to 40. Furthermore, the number of people aged 65 to 74 years rose by 32.6 per cent, while the number of residents between 35 and 49 years fell by 16 per cent.

This is coupled with what is described as a “challenging time” for adult social care services in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

READ MORE: Covid lessons reflected in county's updated inequality strategy

At Thursday’s meeting (May 9) of Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing board, a new “position statement” on adult social care was unveiled to health partners.

The document is described as an “invitation to a conversation” and looks at the main issues that need to be addressed in the sector. Speaking at the meeting, executive director for adult, ageing and wellbeing Neil Bradley explained the report’s purpose.

He said: “The position statement is something I’ve wanted to put in place for a long time. It is layered with questions, such as ‘are we doing this right?’

“I see it as being a lot of conversations. The Covid aftermath still sets the agenda – the NHS is still under strain, workforce shortages are unprecedented and public finances are very stretched.

“This document is an attempt to move beyond crisis management. That is certainly what I have been doing in the last few years we have bumped from one crisis to another.

“We need to take a step back and start to achieve something that is more planned now, and have more of a direction of travel.”

The main sections of the report include reducing the need for care and support and matching care needs to solutions. One aspect Mr Bradley was hoping to improve was the take-up of direct payments, which sees individuals receive cash instead of care from the council and take responsibility for managing their own lives.

He added: “The take-up of direct payments is very low. I want to create a model where we empower people to take the money and manage their own care.

“I worked in the Thames Valley area and there was a much bigger take-up. We want to push this.”

The council is looking to partners such as NHS trusts and voluntary groups to feed into the document and help shape the future of social care in the county. The report concludes: “We know we can’t achieve these changes on our own.

“We also know that our understanding of what changes we need to make, and how best to make them, will develop in the course of the further exploration of all of these issues that we intend to engage in with people with care and support needs, carers, and people working in our own services and the services that we commission.”

Director of public health Gill O’Neil added: “This is a tsunami for us if we don’t work on it. It’s great to see prevention as a core component.”