As the largest representative body for independent providers of adult social care, Care England is concerned that despite, the writing on the wall and repeated warnings, there has been insufficient attention and resources given to the impending social care crisis.
Social care is not just something that happens to other people; unfortunately there is not enough understanding as to what it is, but from cradle to grave it is likely to touch us all therefore we need to get it right.
The dividing line between health and social care is shaky and confusing to boot.
The hard truth is that if social care is in crisis it has wider knock-on effects, particularly on the NHS which is barely able to cope in normal time. Moreover, local economies are heavily dependent on social care as a large employer and service. Adult social care can be the route out of poverty and unemployment for many people.
My members, predominantly care homes, have worked so hard to maintain the highest standards of care during the most challenging of circumstances, often with huge sacrifices involved.
If this care is to be sustained, we need to address the most burning issue; recruitment. With a sector being increasingly put upon it is hard to encapsulate the joys and challenges of caring.
Working in the care sector is not a job, it is a career and care homes have so many ideas as to how to unlock the potential of adult social care, but this is wholly dependent on investment and staff to execute the plans.
The Government has a stark choice as to how to sustain inward investment and there is certainly no appetite for further tax increases. Covid has shown that when there is a need for change then the sector can adapt and adapt fast. This was seen during the pandemic in terms of technology and this mustn’t be let to stand still: we need to harness this progress and build upon it in tandem with the NHS.
Enormous amounts of money have been poured into the NHS and this needs to link up with the adult social care system in order that we, as taxpayers, can see the real results.
A little creative thinking can show how with adult social care in partnership with the NHS there can be improved routes to recovery and helping people with long term conditions to live well.
Many of the workforce pressures have been exacerbated by government policy, for example mandatory vaccination, curbs on migration and preventing movement of staff between settings.
The Government needs to work with the sector to help ease the pressures, burdens and administration ensuring that help goes directly to the front line.
The sector will need an additional 35,000 to 70,000 workers following mandatory vaccination; it is clear that care workers need to be added to the Shortage Occupation List. Quality social care cannot be delivered on a shoestring. The continued lack of a long-term sustainable funding solution will threaten the delivery of quality and timely care enabling meaningful life. The people who work in adult social care are everyday heroes and must be the cornerstone of any future reform.
Money alone is not the answer, the independent adult social care sector is a key part of our health and care system and one that can help lead us into a stronger future underpinned by integration.
One with services centred around individuals and free of much of the excessive bureaucracy and neglect within government that has characterised the attitude to this sector for too long.
What is required now is a different culture, one where success is measured in outcomes, and in terms of the benefit delivered to people and communities more widely.
There is a huge opportunity for the NHS to utilise the capacity and expertise of the adult social care sector, and in order to avert a crisis, we want to work with all partners to put some sensible parameters in place.
Professor Martin Green OBE is chief executive of Care England.
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