RESPONSE: Healthcare, social care and housing leaders share their views on social care reform whitepaper
Following the publication of the UK Government’s long-awaited 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, leaders from the healthcare, social care and housing sectors have responded.
Some of the key funding commitments from the whitepaper include £570 million per year (2022–23 to 2024–25) to provide funding to local areas to deliver the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG); £300 million for the period 2022–23 to 2025–26 to allow local authorities to integrate housing into local health and care strategies; and £150 million of new funding to deliver a programme of digital transformation for the social care sector over the next three years.
Cllr Martin Tett, Adult Social Care Spokesperson for the County Councils Network (CCN), has expressed concerns that the amount of funding committed so far falls short of the ambitions proposed.
“Proposals to digitalise social care, a greater emphasis on supported housing, policies on workforce recruitment, and a person-centred care service are what the County Councils Network has called for and this white paper builds directly on our report with Newton earlier this year that showed the art of the possible with councils playing the lead role in transforming the system,” Martin said.
“However, while CCN supports many of today’s proposals, we remain concerned that the amount of funding committed so far falls short of the ambitions laid out. In particular, there remains little detail on how the government will implement a ‘fair price for care’ and new duties for self-funders to access council arranged care and their rates.
“This policy alone could cost £761m a year in county areas, so it is vital that the government fully funds this aspect of the reform package, and works with local authorities and providers on its implementation to ensure it does not unintentionally destabilise care markets in the short term, or lead to unsustainable costs for councils.”
The Association of Directors of Adults Social Services (ADASS) has also weighed in on the whitepaper. It says that the document should be seen as a first but highly significant step on a journey to transforming the adult social care sector.
Stephen Chandler, ADASS President, commented: “I am really pleased to see this publication, it represents a foundation stone for which we have been waiting for 20 years or more. By its own admission the white paper is just a starting point and I look forward to continue to work with government to make its ambitions a reality.
“This is going to be a 10-year programme of transformation and its success will depend on the continued and growing involvement of groups representing all those who commission, provide and, most importantly, draw on care and support.”
However, he noted that the care and support of tens of thousands of older and disabled people is at risk this winter because of widespread staff shortages among care providers unable to match pay rates being offered in other sectors.
“The white paper paints a promising picture of a more professionalised care workforce in the future,” he continued. “What we urgently need now is a bridge to that brighter future, to address the immediate crisis and ensure that everyone gets the care and support they need this winter.”
The Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT) believes that the commitments from the UK Government do not go far enough to fixing the social care “crisis”.
Steve Ford, RCOT Chief Executive, added: “There is a substantial lack of acknowledgement of the skills and workforce needed, such as those provided by occupational therapists, to help roll out an increased demand in adaptions to people’s homes.
“We are still awaiting the outcome of the 2020 consultation on options to raise the accessibility of new homes. This must not be further delayed. All new homes should have a mandatory level of accessibility, and there must be an increase in supply of fully accessible new build homes.
“Furthermore, we have seen on the ground that there is a growing challenge in accessing and procuring equipment in housing and social care, which is impacting in the ability to provide the right resources to keep people living independently in their homes. This needs addressing urgently by the government to ensure that supply chains are robust and are not impeded further by the recent logistical barriers.”
However, he welcomed the announcement of additional funding for the DFG and said the sharp focus on housing within the whitepaper was “much needed”.
“‘Occupational therapists will also welcome announcements such as recommitment of £500m for dedicated Continuous Professional Development (CPD) budgets for allied health professionals and others, and further recommitment for a new digital hub for the social care workforce to access support and mental health and wellbeing resources,” continued Steve.
The TEC Services Association (TSA) has fully welcomed the social care reform whitepaper. It believes the document recognises the enabling potential of technology and marks a critical step forward in building a more sustainable and effective adult social care system.
Alyson Scurfield, CEO of TSA and who had been closely involved in the rapid development of the whitepaper, said: “Technology can improve people’s lives and help them achieve their aspirations. It empowers individuals and their families, giving them the confidence and tools to choose and feedback on their care and support and also improving the knowledge and understanding of care professionals.
“It’s vital that digital tools are used more proactively across adult social care, identifying risk and preventing incidents, so people can live healthier lives for longer, in their own homes – something TSA identified in its joint Commission with the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services earlier this year.”
Housing LIN CEO Jeremy Porteus commented: “I welcome the commitment and vision set out in today’s White Paper. From HAPPI to TAPPI, it implicitly touches on many of the areas that the Housing LIN champions with a passion.
“The challenge now is to apply these high level ambitions to ensure that the sector explicitly has the right leadership, tools and resources to innovate and deliver the quality and range of housing and care choices that people want, not just in the right place and in the right time, but in the right home.”
In contrast, the Health Foundation says that the whitepaper falls short of being able to fix the social care “crisis”.
Hugh Alderwick, Head of Policy at the Health Foundation, stated: “The funding provided by government for social care over the coming years is barely enough to meet growing demand for care —let alone improve and expand the system and provide care to more people who need it.
“While there are some welcome initiatives, such as developing a mix of housing options to help people live independently, they are a drop in the ocean given the challenges facing people using and providing care. The white paper’s aim to improve terms and conditions for social care staff is positive, but there is no extra funding to achieve it.
“Beyond the money to cover the new cap on care costs, just £1.7bn of extra funding from the health and care levy will go towards the social care system over the next three years. This will do nothing to tackle the high levels of unmet need, persistent workforce shortages and recruitment difficulties, and the precarious position facing many care providers. To meet these challenges, we estimate that additional funding of around £7.6bn in 2022/23 is needed, rising to £9.0bn in 2024/25, over and above that provided for in the Spending Review.”