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Government’s social care plans ‘need more funds to bring sector back from brink’

·5 min read

Care groups and charities have welcomed the Government’s 10-year “vision” to improve social care but said more funding is urgently needed to deliver this and pull the sector “back from the brink”.

Groups said the funding does not match its long-term ambition and the plans do not address the most pressing immediate issues facing the sector – workforce challenges, unmet need and a fragile provider market – ahead of a challenging winter.

The Government unveiled its social care white paper on Wednesday, which gives further details on how some of the previously announced £5.4 billion – to be raised for social care by the £36 billion health and social care levy – will be spent over the next three years.

Part of the £1.7 billion allocated to improve social care will fund a repairs service to help older and disabled people live for longer with their families or independently in their own homes.

They will get more money to enable adaptations such as stairlifts, wet rooms and home technologies through the Disabled Facilities Grant.

At least £300 million will be invested to increase the range of supported housing and at least £150 million to drive greater adoption of technology, which can support independent living and improve care.

Up to £25 million will be invested to change the services provided to support unpaid carers and increase their access to respite services.

A previously announced £500 million will go towards ensuring the social care workforce have the right training and qualifications and feel valued.

Announcing the plans, health minister Gillian Keegan told the House of Commons the Government “is determined to get it right”.

She said the white paper is “underpinned by three core principles”, adding: “First, that everybody has choice, control and support to live independent lives. Second, that everyone can access outstanding personalised care and support. And third, that adult social care is fair and accessible for everyone who needs it.”

Sally Warren, director of policy at The King’s Fund, said the commitments announced over the past few months “do not match the ambition” set out by the Prime Minister when he pledged to reform social care.

She agreed with the white paper’s overall vision but said the steps outlined “don’t go fast or far enough to achieve this vision and the funding allocated to deliver it is insufficient”.

She continued: “In particular, although there are some welcome commitments on training and skills for staff, there is little to tackle poor workforce pay and conditions and high vacancy levels in the sector.”

Councillor David Fothergill, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said councils share the Government’s ambition but will need a “substantially bigger share” of the new levy to do this.

He added: “Addressing unmet and under-met need, tackling rising pressures, retaining hard-working care staff, and investing more in prevention are all areas which need investment now, if we are to significantly bolster core services.”

Nuffield Trust deputy director of policy Natasha Curry said: “There are positive signs, however the Government must now rise to the challenge and back up words with the cash and bold and urgent action to pull social care back from the brink and deliver this vision.”

Shadow care minister Liz Kendall said the white paper “falls woefully short of the mark” and that ministers have failed to address the immediate pressures facing social care.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK and co-chairwoman of the Care and Support Alliance, said a lack of investment means changes will be modest and slow.

She said: “Rather than the Formula One vehicle that was required, the paper is an underpowered saloon car at best.”

She also said there is nothing in the paper to suggest that the Government has any “real strategy” for dealing with workforce problems, which will be magnified, “with potentially disastrous consequences”, if the new Omicron variant leads to a surge in Covid cases over winter.

Dr Rhidian Hughes, chief executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG), called for further funds to “alleviate the immediate pressures being harshly felt today”.

Stephen Chandler, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, praised the Government’s “great ambition” but added: ”Clearly the sums identified so far can be no more than pump-priming.”

The Carers Trust’s executive director of policy and external affairs, Joe Levenson, welcomed the funds to help carers get breaks.

But he said the charity is concerned that the plans “go nowhere near far enough” to transform the “broken” system.

Mike Padgham, chairman of the independent care group, said there is no promise of extra funding, adding: “A vision without action is merely a dream.”

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