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An open letter – signed by various politicians, sector coalitions, trade associations, trade unions, voluntary sector organisations and individual care organisations – has been written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson as part of the new Social Care Coalition, which calls on the UK Government to radically reform the social care sector.

The Social Care Coalition is a new group being led by the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, former Care Minister Sir Norman Lamb and a host of high-profile organisations that actively work in social care.

The open letter, which is signed by the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT), National Care Association, Care and Support Alliance, ADASS, Carers UK and many more, calls on the government to immediately implement:

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  • A comprehensive social care workforce strategy that delivers greater skills training and professionalism as well as improved pay and conditions
  • A substantial and immediate funding boost for social care to help councils meet pressures and provider better standards of care. The Social Care Coalition says that a sustainable and long-term funding solution “must be agreed”
  • Parity of esteem for, and integration of, the social care sector with the NHS to ensure social care no longer slips through the cracks.

The letter reads: “The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a harsh light on the sector and revealed a service that does not enjoy the parity of respect with the NHS that it deserves and needs if this country is to care for vulnerable adults and older people in the way it should.

“The pandemic has exposed to the public the major challenges faced by those employed in the social care sector. The lack of adequate funding has created an environment where travel time is not always reimbursed and many care workers remain on zero hours contracts.

“This workforce is predominantly under-valued, despite the fact that they are highly skilled and worthy of being recognised as professionals. We clapped for NHS staff and carers. Now is the time to give them parity of respect with their counterparts in the NHS and, in particular, to move quickly to improve funding for the sector and align pay scales to match their skills.”

Importantly, according to the new Social Care Coalition, the social care reform should lead to a health and social care service that is commissioned and managed locally, recognising the importance of person-centred care and better coordinated services.

The coalition adds that if a second wave of coronavirus hits the UK without some significant movement towards a genuine and immediate social care reform, it fears for the consequences for the most vulnerable in society in 2021.

Commenting on the open letter, RCOT Chief Executive Julia Scott said: “The pandemic has heightened the big disconnect that exists between many aspects of the health and social care sectors.

“We have seen the devastating impact it has had on people that rely on social care, be it in care homes, or within people’s own homes. The impact has also affected staff such as support workers and the thousands of health professionals, including occupational therapists, who help people to achieve and maintain their independence and participate in society.

“There is an opportunity now for the government to prioritise social care, which has been continually overlooked compared to those working in the NHS. The health and social care integration agenda has gathered momentum during the pandemic and now is the time to press ahead with reform to deliver fully integrated services, designed to meet local population need rather than service driven.”

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