Matthew Dunster, MD of Digital Home Visits, believes the Health and Social Care Levy is barely a sticking plaster for the care crisis, so where do we go now?
The UK is experiencing the worst cost-of-living crisis in many people’s memories, so no-one expected miracles from Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Spring Statement. But despite warnings on how the National Insurance rise would hit hard-working people at the worst possible time, little was done to soften the blow.
Of course, the hike comes with good intentions: it was originally planned to ease the social care crisis. The beleaguered social care sector is short of both staff and long-term investment – and the ultimate cost of that is our loved ones suffering at a time when they need the most help.
But although the Health and Social Care Levy, the catalyst behind the NI hike, was billed as a tax to help ease the health and social care crisis, this year will see the lion’s share of funding distributed to the NHS. Although the tax will raise around £12billion a year, only £1.8 billion of this will reach social care in the first three years, with the rest being used to clear the long NHS waiting lists. The Government claims it wants people to pay a fair price for care, but by the time the funding filters to the social care sector will it be a case of too little, too late?
The rise comes as the cost of living crisis bites, coinciding with the time when many people will be forced into fuel poverty as the removal of the energy price cap spells soaring gas and electricity bills.
What’s really disturbing is that piling on the poverty will, of course, hit the most poorly paid in society. And this will have a further impact on the staffing crisis in the care sector. So many people go into a career in care because they want to make a difference, because they want to help people, because they love it. But now that employees are seeing their take-home pay reduced by additional taxes, coupled with the cost of living rising aggressively, they could be forced out of their jobs in social care and into higher paid – but less rewarding – roles elsewhere.
This will only exacerbate the crisis. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that domiciliary care is the best option for most elderly people and their loved ones, so this is an area that needs investment. My overriding concern is that domiciliary care companies won’t be able to afford to cover their work, so will hand it back to the local authorities. Even one day without a visit from a carer could be disastrous for an elderly person in need.
The result could be hospital beds blocked by people whose acute problems could have been prevented by proper care, residential step-down accommodation will also feel the pressure and vulnerable adults will be left without their familiar surroundings and care.
At DHV, the first step to preventing this is to leverage technology to provide more efficient services so we can try and alleviate these issues. By introducing more automated feedback points in the care delivery cycle, we can more effectively evaluate where mismatches of commissioned and required care exist. More investment should be made by the Government on piloting and assisting development of technologies such as DHV’s investment in home-monitoring solutions, which will alleviate these mounting issues in the future.