Jonathan Boyd: Mapping Social Care Organisations and Facilities In The UK Jewish Community

Dr Jonathan Boyd, Executive Director, Institute for Jewish Policy Research

In 2014, the JLC commissioned the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) to map the Jewish social care infrastructure in the UK, in order to develop a picture of the organisations and facilities that exist, and to begin to assess their shared capacity to address need. Last month, we submitted our report, and this week, we presented the findings to the JLC Council.

Our study identified 549 Jewish organisations and 702 facilities/services across the community, working in one or more of the areas of elderly care, disability care, health care or poverty relief/prevention. Many of these organisations are small gemachim – free loan funds or services to support the economically deprived – functioning exclusively with the haredi community. Once these are stripped away, we found 70 separate organisations and 205 services/facilities, with the largest proportions focused on elderly residential care, mental health, learning disabilities and support for those in financial need.

Determining whether or not this is sufficient is both problematic and complex. Our approach towards making an initial assessment was to draw on UK Census data to estimate the size of the ‘candidate populations’ for different types of care. Census data allows us to quantify, for example, the number of elderly Jews whose day-to-day activities are “limited a lot” due to ill-health or disability, or the number of children suffering from a serious health condition or disability, or the number of households showing signs of economic deprivation. The counts contained within the report provide a comprehensive assessment of the demand side of the social care equation for the first time: i.e. how many Jews of different types and ages show clear signs of needing different types of care.

For example, we can see that there are 14,107 Jews aged 65 or above – 25% of all Jews in that age band – who suffer from a health problem or disability which has lasted, or is expected to last, for at least twelve months. We can also see that the Jewish elderly care sector is able to cater for 2,126 people in residential care homes. Clearly, not all 14,107 people in this category require residential care, but further research investigating (i) the extent to which care homes feel able to respond to existing demand alongside (ii) assessments of how the candidate population is projected to grow or decline over time, would allow us to make reasonably accurate estimates of need going forward. Similar assessment could also be made in other areas.

The details of both the supply and demand sides of the map can be found in the three main products of the research: the report, the presentation, and the directory or organisations and facilities/services. However, looking at the picture as a whole, two insights become particularly apparent.

First, we found evidence of a possible over-supply of capacity in Jewish communities showing signs of population decline. Further research will help to determine precisely what this means. It might suggest cost-saving organisational partnerships or mergers would make sense in these places. However, equally, it might suggest that there is greater need there – Jewish populations typically decline due to ageing, and ageing populations require high levels of care, particularly when younger generations have moved out of the area.

Second, we found that whilst much work is being undertaken to help ameliorate the effects of poverty, very little attention is focused on ensuring Jews don’t fall into poverty in the first place. Importantly, poverty is not an overwhelmingly haredi phenomenon; whilst it is most prevalent in the haredi sector, it is far from unusual in other parts of the Jewish community. Serious investment in poverty prevention work may well be an important priority going forward.

Looking ahead, beyond any specific insights gained, the directory of organisations and facilities/services could form the basis of a community website designed to help those in need identify the organisation/s most able to help them. Certainly, this was one of the potential outcomes of the project discussed by the steering group. Yet even more importantly, the primary task now should be to carefully articulate the problem or problems that need to be solved. The mapping report should help to inform that articulation, and/or provide data that point to solutions. Either way, the research should be seen as the beginning of a process – a first attempt to map reality as it exists, in order to enable the social care field to become as efficient and effective as possible.