Care providers today gave a muted welcome to a long-awaited White Paper on the future of social care.
The Independent Care Group (ICG) has welcomed parts of today’s White Paper, ‘People at the Heart of Care’.
But ICG Chair Mike Padgham warned: “A vision without action is merely a dream.
“There is no promise of any extra funding, other than what has already been announced, to help recruit and retain the thousands of extra staff we need to tackle a growing crisis in the sector. And there is no real, bold, long-term plan for the total reform of the social care sector that everyone wants.
“There are measures to be welcomed in the White Paper, including plans to invest in staff training, extra care housing and in new technology. And I applaud the Government for setting out its 10-year vision to put ‘People at the Heart of Care’.
“But whilst I appreciate that it is only a start, it is a very small start and well short of the bold action we were promised and which we need.”
Main concern is the lack of any new funding for the sector on top of the £1.8bn a year, over the next three years that the Government pledged earlier this year. Industry experts say social care needs an extra £10bn a year.
Mr Padgham said recent days had exposed the current crisis in social care after ADASS reported that services are “rapidly deteriorating” with half of councils responding to a care home closure or bankruptcy in the last six months.
Mr Padgham backed ADASS’s call for an immediate £1,000 bonus payment to help retain staff. ADASS found that some 400,000 people are now waiting for an assessment for their care needs.
Vic Rayner OBE, CEO of the National Care Forum (NCF) says: “The wait is over – and we have before us a 10-year plan that is underpinned by many of the ambitions outlined by NCF and our members. The paper focuses in on key issues around quality, housing, technology, data and innovation – and rightly centres its attention on people who receive care and support, unpaid carers and the incredibly valuable workforce.
“It is a vision that I think many will feel represents the social care that we want for the future. It is clear that there is an appetite for change based on shared principles, and an understanding that investment in social care is critical to facilitating that change.
“Does it go far enough and fast enough? No.
“However, it is definitely a narrative that the not-for-profit care and housing sector can support. It does create a different vision for care that starts from the perspective of people who receive care and support. It will help people who know little about care and support to understand the truly transformational potential of social care. The funding allocated for social care reform as part of the social care and health levy payments is absolutely insufficient, and drastically out of line with the ambitions outlined here.
“Does it address the current crisis affecting the social care sector – particularly in relation to workforce shortage and how that is impacting on people who need or receive care and support? No
“Therefore, for the vision to succeed we need the government to urgently go further. The reform paper says nothing about how we go from the here and now to the future. Bridging this risk filled chasm must be a priority over the next 4 months. People who need care right now are being left either in hospital or at home without the support they require. Staff who have worked in care for years are leaving in their droves through exhaustion, stress and the ability to be paid better in other sectors that can flex and change their wages. Organisations who have delivered care as a vital part of communities are closing their doors, unable to continue in the face of unsustainable pressures. If the government does not take urgent action– then this admirable vision will remain a distant dream. People in communities across all parts of the country need this, social care matters to us all.”
Dr Rhidian Hughes, Chief Executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG), said:
“We stand for a society where disabled people can flourish, drawing on care and support services, to enable independent and fulfilling lives. We thank the Minister of State for Care for publishing People at the Heart of Care and it is encouraging that the vision for care is one that we can all support. Everyday staff within our members’ services are delivering care and support underpinned by these shared values.
“The intention behind today’s publication is admirable but what we need from government is reassurance that further financial investment will be forthcoming to alleviate the immediate pressures being harshly felt today. The reality of underfunding has been increasingly highlighted in recent weeks. It’s clear that funding from central to local government is insufficient to cover the costs of providing high quality care and support and the tragic result is people are losing out on support. The new initiatives that the White Paper will introduce, such as digitisation and housing investment, are to be applauded but we are left searching for the immediate and tangible plans for change, with the funding behind it, that disabled people and their families, and the workforce supporting them, can genuinely get behind today.
“Every day, our members are losing staff to other sectors because services for disabled people are commissioned at such low pay rates. Sadly, government’s ambitions to improve the lot of care workers falls far short today with no measurable impact on care worker take home pay. We believe that it is only by investing in our people and rewarding and lifting care staff out of low pay, will the long-term ambitions set out in the White Paper be fully realised.
“Now is the time for the Minister to strengthen engagement with people who draw on social care, and the services and organisations behind them. VODG stands by to play its part so the implementation of these policy ambitions is well informed by the experience of our members.”
Mei-Ling Huang, a Partner in the Social Care team at law firm Royds Withy King comments.
“The Government has realised that its promise to ‘fix social care’ was a mistake. It is a task of such enormity that this White Paper looks to manage and reframe expectations. This White Paper is simply the first step in a 10-year vision and questions remain over whether it is enough to shore up a sector that is chronically under-funded.
“The White Paper does, however give a flavour of what we might expect over the next three years.
“The White Paper says that the Government will aim to ensure that self-funders can access the same rates for care costs in care homes that local authorities pay, ending the unfairness where self-funders have to pay more for the same care, whilst ensuring local authorities move towards paying a fair cost of care to providers”.
“It is a laudable aim but does not explain how the Government will attempt to achieve this or indeed acknowledge the fact that it was long-standing Government policies that created the current two-tier system of care in the first place.
“With only £5.4 billion of the £36 billion Health and Care Levy going to social care over a period of three years, it seems to us that the Government is tinkering around the edges of a mammoth problem but failing to address the critical issue – the fair and adequate funding for the sector.
“They also skirt around the fact that the operations of the NHS are intrinsically linked to the smooth running of the social care system. If they want to protect the NHS, then one of the best places to start is to give social care adequate funding
Neil Russell, Chairman of specialist neurological care group PJ Care says that while the focus on care at home is good and will benefit many people, residential and nursing care must not be ignored.
“The use of the word ‘institutions’ to describe residential care homes is a clear example of how far behind the Government is in their thought processes. Residential and nursing care plays a vital role in social care, and in supporting the NHS, but the funding arrangements for the sector need to be addressed to ensure that all care providers can afford to provide the support they want to and that their residents deserve.”
He adds that much of the training and upskilling the government says will be offered is already available and is “nothing new”. Care providers such as PJ Care already have comprehensive training plans in place for employees at all levels.
Neil adds that, as ever with large-scale white papers, the devil will be in the detail and the action plans to deliver on the proposals. “There is a lot of wishful thinking in this white paper, and it remains to be seen if they will be able to follow through with the actions required to achieve a part of it,” he says.