“Deep disappointment” as Government social care reforms fail to address workforce crisis
The powerful cross party and cross sector Future Social Care Coalition (FSCC) has expressed its “deep disappointment” that the Government’s proposals announced yesterday failed to include any immediate action, such as a pay rise for the 600,000 social care and support workers on the national minimum wage, to address the very high staff vacancies and turnover rates in the care sector.
FSCC Co-chair, Christina McAnea, UNISON General Secretary, said:
“The Government has neither come up with a plan or enough cash to tackle the growing crisis. There can be no quick fix in care, the problems are too deep-seated. Fundamental reform is essential. But there was nothing on this yesterday.
“Decent pay for undervalued care employees would be a start. As would making sure proper sick pay, career progression and training is in place. Improved care and support for all who need it cannot happen without a much fairer deal for the workforce.”
FSCC Co-chair Phil Hope (Labour) said:
“It is deeply disappointing that the Government’s proposals did not address the need for a better long term deal in the pay, conditions and career prospects of the social care workforce including an immediate uplift to the real living wage and then parity with NHS employees as proposed by the FSCC Social Care People Plan.
“Without immediate action on workforce reform, including an immediate pay rise for the 600,000 care workers who only earn the national minimum wage, unsustainable high vacancy rates – currently running at more than 110,000 – and very high turnover – 30% per year – will continue. It is time for a fair deal for the social care workforce.”
FSCC Co–chair, Alistair Burt (Conservative) added:
“While it is welcome that social care is back on the Government’s agenda, there is much more to do. The main question is why does social care only get £1.8bn per year for reform when the recent Health and Social Care Select Committee report recommended £7bn a year? Serious reform needs to be backed up by resource, not short changed.
“The FSCC will continue to seek to work with Government to mend and future-proof a sector broken by years of neglect.”
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Appended is a longer statement from FSCC Co-Chair and former Minister for Social Care, Phil Hope, Not even bronze! following his earlier article Time for an Olympic Gold Social Care System
Not even bronze! Social care reforms are well short of the gold standard desired, expected and needed
Earlier this month I published five tests of the Government’s announcement on reform of the funding of social care:
1. Does it generate sufficient funds immediately to close the gap between the population’s current care needs and the care services available to meet them?
2. Does it provide stable, reliable and sufficient funding for social care services in the long term so this question is resolved now and for future generations?
3. Is it fair in the way it raises income from the population given the financial pressures on younger adults, and the growth in unearned income from rising property values of many older people? And is it fair in the way that the money is spent on those with care needs?
4. Will it lead to a better deal in the pay, conditions and career prospects of the social care workforce and will it improve service effectiveness and efficiency?
5. Does it support greater integration of health and social care services to provide a better, seamless experience of personalised care for those who receive support?
I regret to say that it appears to fail on all counts – not even a bronze compared to the gold standard desired, expected and needed.
The Health and Social Care Select Committee chaired by former Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, previously called for an additional £7bn a year for social care. Yet, of the additional £12bn per year being raised for the next three years, only £1.8bn (15%) will go to social care – the rest going to the NHS; and of that around half will pay for the cost of the new care costs cap meaning just under £1bn will go to actually fund more or better social care. This will not mean a better deal for the low-wage care workforce or address the problems of workforce shortages and high staff turnover that inevitably lead to poorer care for those in need.
The new health and social care levy, if fully ringfenced, could provide a long-term funding solution for social care but it will not do so if the vast bulk of that levy goes into the NHS. Local Authorities responsible for social care will remain having to go cap-in-hand to the NHS for additional income, and history tells us that the demands of clinical care (with or without the pressures of a pandemic) will always trump those of social care.
The lack of fairness in the increase to National Insurance contributions to fund the levy is self-evident, and the £600m raised through the extra tax on dividends is just 5% of the total – little more than political cover to claim the levy is broad-based when in reality it is taking from the poorest to protect those with large capital assets through the care costs cap of £86,000.
One glimmer of hope is that Government have promised a new White Paper on the reform of social care. It is, to say the least, odd that this will be published whilst the current Health and Care Bill is going through Parliament rather than being a part of it. But it does at least mean there are still things to play for in securing a stronger social care system for the future.