Learning disability charity Hft is calling for a long-term social care workforce plan following the Government’s announcement of a £600 million package to support recruitment and retention in the social care sector.
Kirsty Matthews, CEO of Hft, explains why this funding is crucial but doesn’t go far enough.
She says: “The £600 million package is a welcome, and much-needed, step towards supporting social care through the winter months and into next year. It is positive to see that the Government is starting to recognise the importance of funding the social care workforce to help relieve pressure on the NHS and to continue to provide quality support to those who require it.
“However, the funding does not go far enough to address the entrenched issues within the adult social care sector.
“From our own Sector Pulse Check research, released in partnership with Care England, we know that continued funding shortfalls and cost pressures are having a significant impact on our sector. In 2022, 82% of care providers were in deficit or faced a decrease in their surplus as a result of increasing and unfunded workforce pay.
“81% of providers also reported that Local Authority fee increases did not cover the rising cost of the National Living Wage, let alone a higher, more competitive wage. The knock-on impact of this is insurmountable, with high vacancy rates, the unavoidable use of expensive agency staff and the need to turn away new admissions due to insufficient staff.
“While the Government attempts to address these shortfalls, and ‘build a stronger foundation for the health and social care workforce’, it fails to recognise that the already stretched social care sector requires a sustainable long-term funding solution to achieve and maintain these aims. A move away from winter-specific funds towards long-term funding would allow organisations to have more confidence in the financial stability of their services and for more informed conversations between providers and commissioners.
“We would like to see a long-term social care workforce plan developed, similar to that which has been published for the NHS, to address the estimated 152,000 vacancies in our sector.
“Ultimately, the proposed funding is a step in the right direction but it only goes so far in helping the sector plan for the future and provide the best care possible.”