Adult social care reform whitepaper: Key takeaways for assistive tech professionals
The UK Government has published its long-anticipated adult social care reform whitepaper, which details its 10-year vision for the sector and provides information on funded proposals that will be implemented over the next three years.
Called ‘People at the Heart of Care: Adult social care reform whitepaper’, the whitepaper has been long-awaited by care professionals and organisations.
On 7 September 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced £5.4 billion for adult social care reform over the next three years. At the Autumn Spending Review 2021, it was confirmed that £1.7 billion of this funding would be for major improvements across the adult social care system.
The whitepaper sets out how some of this money will be spent to begin to transform the adult social care system in England and details the government’s 10-year reform vision.
The 10-year plan is centred around three key objectives:
- People have choice, control, and support to live independent lives.
- People can access outstanding quality and tailored care and support.
- People find adult social care fair and accessible.
People can learn more about the reforms by visiting the new Transforming Social Care website. This website contains important information about paying and accessing adult social care, developing the social care workforce, housing and innovation, and how unpaid carers are being supported.
Below, AT Today has highlighted some of the key reforms from the adult social care whitepaper that assistive technology professionals should know about.
The whitepaper highlights that, currently, many people do not live in houses that are safe or accessible for them. It adds that there is a lack of suitable housing options for people, which results in longer, unnecessary stays in hospital.
“Our ambition is to give more people the choice to live independently and healthily in their own homes for longer,” the document reads.
The whitepaper recognises the importance of assistive technologies and home adaptations in enabling people to remain independent and reducing the amount of formal care needed. Therefore, the government is committing a further £570 million per year (2022–23 to 2024–25) to provide funding to local areas to deliver the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG).
The government will consult on a new approach in 2022 as to how local authorities receive DFG funding allocations too.
It will further invest at least £300 million for the period 2022–23 to 2025–26 to allow local authorities to integrate housing into local health and care strategies, with a focus on boosting the supply of specialist housing and funding improved services for residents.
Additionally, the government has promised to continue investing in the Care and Support Specialised Housing (CASSH) Fund, with £70 million per year capital funding available per year between 2022–23 to 2025–26. This will help incentivise the supply of specialised housing for older people and people with a physical disability, learning disability, autism, or mental ill-health, it claims.
Digital and assistive technology
To ensure the adult social care system is fully digitally-enabled as part of the government’s 10-year vision, it will invest at least £150 million of new funding to deliver a programme of digital transformation over the next three years.
The paper recognises how assistive technologies can help people stay connected, reduce the amount of time social care professionals spend in somebody’s home, enable people to be independent and safe, and prevent conditions from deteriorating or unnecessary hospital admissions. For instance, it underlines fall prevention technology, medication reminders, and remote monitoring technology for data-driven insights.
As the whitepaper explains: “The use of technologies in social care should enhance the quality of care, free up time for meaningful human interactions, and create stronger connections between people and their friends, family and care networks. We must ensure that technology reduces rather than exacerbates loneliness and isolation, and that it supports the mental health and well being of people and carers.
“And while not all people will want to use technology as part of their care or daily life, we must make sure that professionals and care teams have the right digital tools and data to provide the outstanding, safe care that all people deserve.”
To support care providers in adopting proven technologies that can transform quality of care and safety, the government will fund implementation support within each integrated care system (ICS) and invest in the infrastructure and skills required for the future. However, no set amount is detailed in the whitepaper.
To ensure that the adult social care workforce is skilled and confident in the use of technology, the government has pledged to provide a comprehensive digital learning offer that includes accessible training and online resources to build transferrable digital skills as well as practical guidance on using technology in all care settings.
“We will publish a social care technology blueprint, as well as developing advice on ‘what good looks like’ for social care technology, to help everyone involved in the provision of care understand what they should be aiming for,” the whitepaper continues.
Supporting local authorities to deliver social care reform
As part of the government’s 10-year vision for social care reform, it recognises the crucial role local authorities play in facilitating person-centred care.
From 2022 to 2025, the government will provide £3.6 billion to reform the social care charging system, enable all local authorities to move towards paying providers a fair rate for care, and prepare local care markets for implementing reform.
It will also give more support to local authorities, including specific support to strengthen their market shaping and commissioning capabilities. In total, it will provide an increase in improvement funding of more than £70 million between 2022–23 and 2024–25.
Social care workforce investment
To help social care workers feel valued, the government will invest £500 million over the next three years to begin to transforming the way it supports the social care workforce. This dedicated investment in knowledge, skills, health and wellbeing and recruitment policies will improve social care as a long-term career choice, according to the whitepaper.
“We also want to work with commissioners and providers to make sure care workers are paid for all the hours they work and to improve the terms and conditions of the workforce, to help ensure a sustainable future supply of care staff,” the document reads.
Importantly, part of the £500 million funding boost will go towards Continuous Professional Development (CPD) budgets for registered nurses, nursing associates, occupational therapists, and other allied health professionals.