The Government’s 10 Year Plan For Social Care ‘Starts Faltering Here…’

By Tony Stein, Chief Executive, Healthcare Management Solutions (www.hcsolutions.co.uk)

I read with dismay further announcements on the government’s 10 year vision for Social Care.

A central pillar of this vision is the £1bn of funding that is to come out of the 1.25% increase in NI which we are led to believe is a Social Care Levy.

The funding will help pay for:

• The range and amount of new supported housing to be increased through £300 million in housing investment, to help local authorities offer greater choice, care and support, alongside a new practical service to make repairs and changes in peoples’ homes to help them remain safe and either stay with their families or live independently in accordance with their wishes.

• New technology and digitisation backed by at least £150 million to improve care quality and safety, support independent living and allow staff to provide focused care where it is needed. For example, acoustic sensors which monitor movement will help residents sleep uninterrupted and allow carers to monitor them safely and be alerted if needed. Digital care records will be updated to make sure all caregivers have the latest up-to-date details to provide the best support possible.

• The 1.5 million strong adult social care workforce will see a record £500 million invested so they can progress in their careers with training and qualifications while providing an even better standard of care. This will help recognise their valued skills and prioritise their wellbeing with greater support for their mental health.

Firstly, I needn’t point out that the Social Care Levy is estimated to raise £11.4bn per annum. £1bn over three years to be spent on the above is therefore just a miniscule £333m out of £11,400m each year or 3%. We are told that the remainder is to go to the NHS – so, not quite the Social Care Levy it’s purported to be then is it!

Secondly, £300m over three years to adapt housing is but £100m p.a. and whilst I have absolutely no issue with helping people to remain in their homes for as long as possible this ‘investment’ is often very short term unless the property can be recycled to someone with similar needs once the incumbent moves into full time care. It isn’t therefore an investment so much as a short-term cost and this should be understood even if the decision to make this expenditure is to be applauded.

Thirdly, as someone with a considerable number of services to operate I can assure everyone that £50m per year across the social care space to improve technology is a mere drop compared with what’s needed and, in the current environment where multiple businesses are developing their own products to meet this need, the first issue to address before this money is spent is how all this technology talks to each other. Unless this is addressed first, the outcome will be an expensive but highly fragmented software environment with limited opportunity for data sharing between the many stakeholders.

Finally, we need to stop talking about training as if this is the solution to the issue of poor pay in the care sector. No matter how many times Mr Javid tells everyone that offering training will suddenly make everyone want to work in care, it isn’t going to happen. Indeed, in some ways not being able to pay our staff more when they have additional skills and qualifications is sending an even worse message about how they’re valued. Fundamentally, funding of care needs to be improved so that front line social care workers can be paid a fair wage for a highly responsible job. Operators are already dealing with the issue of training and if the government had decent dialogue with the CQC the CQC would confirm that training is not at the top of the list of shortcomings across the sector however staff shortages are.

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