Social care plan 'three steps forward and two steps back'

Spending a disappointment given scale of crisis in sector, says former minister Jeremy Hunt
Photo: Pixabay

By CSW staff

02 Dec 2021

The government has provided details of how it will spend £1.7bn over three years on adult social care in England – but MPs scrutinising the plans have branded them a "disappointment".

A white paper published yesterday allocates significant tranches of money to staff training, supported housing and digital technology, following the government's decision to raise taxes to help fund the sector.

But Jeremy Hunt, chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, said the £1.7bn "falls far short of the annual £7bn sum that our evidence found would be necessary to fix social care"

“This is a disappointment given the extent of the crisis in social care and the predicament of people whose quality of life is dependent on a solution being found," he said.

The document, People at the heart of care, says at least £500m will be spent on staff training and qualifications over the period.

These include a plan to develop a knowledge and skills framework for the more than 1.65 million people who work in the sector, including a ‘skills passport’ that will hold records of portable care certificates as well as other learning and development work.

At least £300m will be used to help local authorities integrate housing with local health and care strategies with the involvement of NHS integrated care partnerships.

This funding aims to boost the supply of supported housing and increase local spending on services for those living in such accommodation. The paper notes that the UK has just 0.6% of people living in supported accommodation, compared with more than 5% in Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

The government will also spend at least £150m on digital technology for the sector, including on digital social care records, with the intention that by March 2024 at least 80% of social care providers are using such systems.

There will also be funding for fibre broadband connections to care homes that have poor connections, improved cyber security, digital skills training for staff and a new scheme to test and develop technologies that support older people living independently in their own homes, such as by preventing falls through technologies such as acoustic monitoring.

Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said he wanted to encourage investment and innovation that will shift adult social care away from relying purely on residential care towards better care at home and in the community. “The new funding for our workforce, housing and innovation are just a handful of the proposals that will start to make our vision a reality,” he wrote in the white paper's foreword.

“I stress that it is a journey,” he added. “The proposals outlined will not solve all of the problems, but they are a significant step in moving us towards a new vision for social care that the whole of government is committed to.”

The paper focused on spending rather than the government’s plans to cap social care costs that narrowly passed a parliamentary vote last month, with the Treasury Committee of MPs criticising the lack of detail on how people will be affected by the policy.

Hunt, who is also one of Javid's predecessors as health secretary, repeated his committee's previous warnings that the funding is insufficient to solve the social care system's problems.

“The government deserves credit for grasping the nettle of social care reform, and no-one can argue with the laudable aims of providing choice, quality and fair access.  However, these plans represent three steps forward and two steps back," he said.

"The white paper states that it provides an ‘ambitious ten-year vision’, but it doesn’t acknowledge the scale of extra resource needed to realise that vision, based on the crisis the sector faces right now," he added.

He said failures in social care "will continue to put pressure on our overstretched hospitals with patients who cannot be safely discharged exacerbating the winter crisis and thousands of people will not get the care they need because the carers do not exist"

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