ICG Chair holds one-to-one meeting with care minister

ICG Chair Mike Padgham has described as “constructive” a one-to-one meeting with Social Care Minister Helen Whately today.

Mr Padgham said he was optimistic that lines of communication between social care providers and the Government could improve.

“I think it was a positive meeting. We discussed a lot, and I came away feeling that the minister had listened to the concerns of care providers and that we can hopefully strengthen lines of communication going forward,” said Mr Padgham.

“It was extremely useful to get a one-to-one meeting with the minister and to tell her face-to-face the serious issues that care providers are enduring at the coalface.

“We previously met 17 months ago, and I was at pains to point out just how much the situation had worsened in that time. I accept that the minister cannot change everything overnight, but I stressed that many providers are hanging on by their fingertips.

“We desperately need to get more funding into the sector to raise staff pay and address the staffing crisis and to help smaller providers who do not enjoy the same economies of scale as their larger counterparts. We have to ensure there remains a mixed market in the sector.

“We also need to be innovative and to provide some time-limited incentives for the sector, particularly around domiciliary care.

“I was also keen to stress that the sector is facing the dangers of a two-tier social care service contrasting providers who mainly take private-paying clients and those who rely on public-sector funded clients.”

The two discussed the severe social care staff shortages, with Mr Padgham urging the Minister to extend the window of opportunity for care providers to employ care assistants from overseas. At the moment a 12-month period during which providers can employ staff from overseas is due to end next spring. There is no such deadline for employing nursing staff.

Mr Padgham urged the minister to further help overseas recruitment by introducing incentives like reduced council tax for key workers.

They also discussed the role of the Integrated Care Boards.

“The minister asked what my experience of the Integrated Care Boards was like, and I had to tell her that I was dismayed at the lack of independent social care representation on them,” Mr Padgham added.

“I stressed that social care wants to work with its partners to tackle the crisis, ease pressure on the NHS and provide people with the care they need.

“Way back in 2001, the Department of Health published a document called Building Capacity and Partnership in Care. I think it would serve the Government well to revisit that document.

“We also discussed improving commissioning, including longer-term contracts, the direct purchasing of beds from the NHS to the provider and the ongoing bugbear of meeting duplication of requirement from the CQC, local authorities and the NHS.

“It was extremely useful for our regional organisation, The Independent Care Group, from North Yorkshire, to get a one-to-one conversation with the minister.

“I would describe it as constructive, the minister listened to the concerns we have and that is progress. I would describe the minister as one of the most receptive I have met, but time will tell.”

He has invited her to visit a care provider in North Yorkshire to see the pressures firsthand.

Mr Padgham also presented the Minister with a copy of the ICG’s Five Pillars of Social Care Reform document which sets out what it believes are the actions required to save the sector.