Muted welcome for care White Paper

The Independent Care Group today gave a muted welcome to a long-awaited White Paper on the future of social care.

It welcomed parts of today’s White Paper, ‘People at the Heart of Care’, but ICG Chair Mike Padgham warned: “A vision without action is merely a dream.

“There is no promise of any extra funding, other than what has already been announced, to help recruit and retain the thousands of extra staff we need to tackle a growing crisis in the sector. And there is no real, bold, long-term plan for the total reform of the social care sector that everyone wants.

“There are measures to be welcomed in the White Paper, including plans to invest in staff training, extra care housing and in new technology. And I applaud the Government for setting out its 10-year vision to put ‘People at the Heart of Care’.

“But whilst I appreciate that it is only a start, it is a very small start and well short of the bold action we were promised and which we need.”

Main concern is the lack of any new funding for the sector on top of the £1.8bn a year, over the next three years that the Government pledged earlier this year. Industry experts say social care needs an extra £10bn a year.

Mr Padgham said recent days had exposed the current crisis in social care after ADASS reported that services are “rapidly deteriorating” with half of councils responding to a care home closure or bankruptcy in the last six months.

Mr Padgham backed ADASS’s call for an immediate £1,000 bonus payment to help retain staff. ADASS found that some 400,000 people are now waiting for an assessment for their care needs.

Trade union Unison reported that there are currently not enough care staff to look after care and nursing home residents even during their final hours.

Mr Padgham said the sector urgently needed more “boots on the ground” to cope with the ongoing staffing crisis, alongside the extra pressures of winter and Covid-19, including the new variant.

“Before the pandemic there were more than 100,000 care staff vacancies.

“The Government’s “no jab, no job” policy has added many more thousands to that shortage – maybe as many as the 60,000 the Government itself feared.

“We were already in the eye of a perfect storm, with exhausted and burnt-out carers battling to provide the best care they can as winter sets in; the impact of “no jab, no job” and an inability to recruit from overseas because of Brexit. “Today’s White Paper is welcome but it is short of support for the here and now, which is what care providers are having to face.”

Some £8bn has been cut from social care since 2010 and pre-pandemic some 1.5m people were not getting the care they needed.

The ICG wants to see urgent support for care staff, starting with the payment of a staff bonus, to get more people into the sector to provide care.

Further ahead, it wants to see root and branch reform of the care system to revolutionise the way we look after older and vulnerable people and reward those who provide the care.

The ICG wants to see:

  • A root and branch overhaul of the way social care is planned and funded
  • NHS care and social care merged and managed locally or nationally
  • Extra funding for social care, funded by taxation
  • Dementia treated and funded like other high priority illnesses
  • A fixed percentage of GDP to be spent on social care
  • Proper pay, conditions and career structure for carers
  • Social care businesses to be zero-rated for VAT.