The Government has been accused of cutting its funding to develop the social care workforce in England, as its plans to inject at least £500million over the next three years has been halved to just £250million. Today’s announcement has drawn criticism from charities, unions and think tanks, who say this is an ‘insult’ to the sector and the ‘bare minimum’ needed to prevent it from collapsing.
The 2021 People at the Heart of Care White Paper aimed to both recognise and improve the social care workforce by funding hundreds of thousands of training places and creating a new care qualification. It was also set to invest £150million in digitisation and £25million to support unpaid carers, along with £300million to integrate housing into local health and care strategies – although none of these investments have been mentioned today.
Sally Warren, director of policy at think tank the King’s Fund, said that Government appears to be ‘silent’ on the previous commitment to unpaid carers, describing the revised plan as the ‘bare minimum needed’ to help the sector. Mike Padgham of the Independent Care Group described the Government’s announcement as ‘another cruel and unfair cut to the funding we need to provide care to older and vulnerable people’, while Natasha Curry of the Nuffield Trust said it was a ‘smoke and mirrors attempt’ to sow confusion.
Jackie O’Sullivan of learning disability charity Mencap also criticised the plan, calling it ‘an insult to a sector that was once treated as a priority for Government’, echoed by TUC general secretary Paul Nowak who said Government was ‘presiding over a perfect storm’.
The Government, however, insists that no funding for the adult social care sector has been removed or re-allocated to the NHS, and that their plans will give the care sector the ‘status it deserves’. Social care minister Helen Whately said the package ‘focuses on recognising care with the status it deserves’, adding that ‘care depends completely on the people who do the caring’.
The social care workforce of over a million people tasked with looking after older and disabled people is currently at record lows due to difficulty in recruitment and retention. This is adding to the burden on hospitals, with NHS data showing thousands of beds are occupied by patients fit to leave but who can’t return to care facilities or back home.
Helen Whately is the minister for Social Care in the UK with oversight of the adult social care workforce and budget reforms. She is a long-term advocate for the sector having served as the Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Care since 2019. Whately is a vocal supporter of increased recognition, status and wage of care workers as well as investment in digitisation and technology.
The company mentioned in the article is Nuffield Trust, an independent think tank that provides expert analysis of data and evidence from the UK health and care system. Their mission is to create an improved health care system through evidence-informed policy-making. Nuffield Trust works closely with government, funders, and care providers to deliver the best possible care for patients.