News, Social Care

State of social care and support provision has not improved, new report suggests

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Care England, as a member of the Care Provider Alliance, which brings together the main national associations that represent independent and voluntary adult social care providers in England, published a report on the current state of social care in England this week.


The Care Provider Alliance (CPA) published a briefing this week, The State of the Social Care and Support Provision in England, that highlights the key issues currently afflicting the social care sector. These issues include, but are not limited to:

·       The rising cost of living

·       Lack of funding to Local Authorities to adequately raise fee rates for social care

·       Impact of financial pressures and uncertainty

·       Unmet need is unacceptably high and rising

The key message from the report is that immediate government investment into social care is needed now. Without substantial reform and investment to support that reform, achieving long-term sustainability is impossible in the current economic climate. The implication of continued governmental inaction is continued market instability. Provider failure will impact significantly on both the NHS and Local Authorities, who will be unable to commission care and support packages from providers. Lack of action now will also prevent care providers from enabling those who rely on care support to enjoy their rights to live purposeful lives, as active members of families and communities.

Professor Martin Green, Chief Executive of Care England, said: “We require a 1948 moment for adult social care to establish a long-term and sustainable future that will be to the benefit of all citizens and the economy. It is clear that the reforms introduced under the Johnson administration are a starting point but are by no means going to ‘fix social care’ and the current reform proposals may well be kicked into the long grass again. 

“The sector stands ready and willing to support the delivery of a much-needed reform agenda that will deliver a clear funding strategy for social care, whilst also developing a range of careers and opportunities that will provide high-quality care and support local economic development. The health of the UK economy cannot be separated from the health of the social care sector, the two are fundamentally linked.”

The report comes after Care England accused Ofgem of predatory pricing by charging “horrendous and financially crippling rates” in an open letter. Care England, the country’s largest representative body for independent providers of adult social care in England, is calling on the government to launch an investigation into the matter.  

News, Social Care

Energy cost support resource launched for care workers

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energy

As social care workers and providers grapple with sharply rising energy costs this winter, Community Integrated Care has launched a new programme to support social care workers, people using services and family carers.


Free to access and available to all, Taking Charge offers free interactive webinars and accessible resources, specially tailored to the home-life and working routines of people who work in social care, and the people they support.

Launched by Community Integrated Care, a member of the National Care Forum (NCF), it brings together expert advice from leading energy organisations with the insights and perspectives shaped by the people it supports and their colleagues.

The ongoing energy crisis, coupled with spiralling inflation, is seeing many social care workers and their families struggle financially, and many disabled people are paying more than double the energy bill of the average consumer.

The NCF has been drawing attention to the growing energy pressures and its impact on the sector, alongside the ongoing workforce shortages, for several months, and has called on the government for:

  • A guarantee that adult social care providers are defined as a vulnerable sector as part of the Energy Bill Relief Scheme following April 2023.
  • A guarantee that those people accessing adult social care support will be able to access the Energy Price Guarantee following April 2023.
  • Additional, immediate support for providers to reduce the pressures facing social care workers and meet other operational costs due to rising cost of living and inflation

Professor Vic Rayner OBE, CEO of NCF, said: “The eye watering increases in energy costs is a very serious concern among our members, even after the government capped prices through the Energy Bill Relief and Energy Price Guarantee Schemes.

“For social care workers, the steep rises in the cost of living and energy costs alongside the continued reluctance of government to guarantee the funding for better pay, terms and conditions, means that the next few months will be very hard.

“The lives and wellbeing of the people who access care and support services are also significantly impacted, and many are not enjoying the same support the government is giving to other households.

“It’s encouraging to see such an innovative, co-produced, support programme from Community Integrated Care. This will provide much needed practical support to people accessing care services and care workers. However, this can’t be the responsibility of providers alone, we also need more action from government.”

News, Social Care

Care England issues S.O.S. for care sector

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care sector

Care England has this week written to the newly appointed Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, calling for the Conservative manifesto promise to ‘fix social care’ to be delivered in his premiership.


Care England’s open letter, signed by Chief Executive, Professor Martin Green OBE, outlines many of the immediate pressures facing the sector, including reform delays, energy costs and the escalating workforce crisis. It asks Rishi Sunak’s new government to fulfil the promise made in Boris Johnson’s 2019 election manifesto to “fix social care”. The sector has been increasingly plagued of late by record staffing shortages, low morale and uncertainty over providers’ ability to meet soaring energy costs.

Recent research has also shown that in-work poverty is widespread among the social care workforce, with one in 10 residential social care workers experiencing food insecurity and material poverty from 2017-2020 – a figure that is likely to be higher now.


“Save our sector”

Titled Saved our Sector, Care England’s letter argues that “any delay to the £1.36 billion funding provisioned for the Fair Cost of Care to address historic underfunding of social care and move fees closer to a Fair Cost of Care will have catastrophic effects.” The Health and Social Care Levy, which was set to provide the additional funding for social care through a 1.25 per cent increase in National Insurance contributions, was officially scrapped this month by Kwasi Kwarteng, the former Chancellor. The government has sought to assure parliament that scrapping the measure will not impact funding for health and social care but it is not yet clear how the shortfall will be addressed.

The letter coincides with reports that £500 million in emergency funding promised by the former Health Secretary, Thérèse Coffey, has yet to materialise. The fund was announced in September by the Department for Health and Social Care as an emergency “adult social care discharge fund… to free up beds and help improve ambulance response times”, however it has been reported that none of the funding has been received by the NHS or social care providers.

Describing the current state of social care funding, Care England say that: “The adult social care sector has been chronically underfunded by central government for far too long. Current funding provisions are insufficient and the government must commit to substantial increases in funding to stabilise the sector and enable it to move towards a sustainable footing.”

Care England also urge the government to release a fully-funded strategic workforce plan to remedy the much-publicised crisis in social care staffing. The vacancy rate for social care staff hit a record high 165,000 vacant posts this month (10.7 per cent of all posts), a situation that Care England describe as “a rapidly worsening crisis”. The number of vacancies across the sector rose by 55,000 in the last year, amounting to a 52 per cent increase.

On energy concerns, the open letter implores the government to immediately announce an extension to the six-month Energy Bill Relief Scheme, which is currently running until 31st March 2023. It states that while the scheme offers “much-needed short-term stability to care providers, [it] does not represent the long-term strategy needed to support the sector through the ongoing energy crisis.” Any move to withdraw the current measures would constitute “an immense oversight by the government,” Care England say, and “more substantial measures [should be] implemented as soon as possible.”

Addressing the new Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, Martin Green says: “Care England welcomes the Prime Minister to his new role. Speaking for the first time outside of No.10, Mr. Sunak spoke of his intention to ‘deliver’ the Conservative manifesto promises from 2019. Now in office, he is presented with a unique opportunity to finish what his predecessors started and enact the long-overdue reform of the sector promised by his party during the 2019 election, and ‘fix social care’ once and for all.

“Following a turbulent couple of months at the head of government, it is vital that the new Prime Minister steadies the ship and places social care right at the top of his agenda. The stabilisation of the adult social care sector should be the government’s priority in the coming months to secure the future of the nation; for the individual receiving support and care, the staff member and the taxpayer.”

“The issues currently facing social care are immense in both scale and severity and must be addressed as a matter of urgency if the sector is to be saved. Issues around reform, energy, funding or workforce in isolation would be enough to push a provider over the edge: all four simultaneously is catastrophic.

“Care providers deliver essential care to many of society’s most vulnerable; Mr. Sunak has the opportunity and responsibility to ensure these individuals, and the high-quality care they receive, are protected in the long and short term. Care England is looking forward to building on our long history as a critical friend to government, and assisting in a pragmatic government response that is needed to save our sector.”

News, Social Care

Cost of living hits social care staff as vacancies soar

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As a Health Foundation report finds care home staff are more likely to be living in poverty than other health workers, figures from Skills for Care show the social care vacancy rate has risen to a record-high.


Skills for Care’s annual social care workforce report has shown a drop in the number of care workers in England for the first time in 10 years. It follows a new report from the Health Foundation which finds that care home staff are far more likely to be living in poverty than other health workers, with one in five living in poverty before the latest cost-of-living crisis, compared to one in eight of all workers.

The findings have raised fresh concerns over the viability of a career in care. Despite a stream of pleas for the government to raise the status and pay of care workers, Skills for Care’s report also shows that 80 per cent of jobs in the economy pay more than the average job in social care.

Estimates within Skills for Care’s report show a three per cent fall in the number of posts filled in 2021-22 (amounting to 50,000 posts), the first time a drop has been recorded in 10 years. As such, the vacancy rate in adult social care has risen to 10.7 per cent, the highest rate since figures began in 2012-13. However, the number of vacancies in adult social care also increased by 52 per cent over the last year, up 55,000, and now stands at 165,000 vacant posts.

Furthermore, the starter rate for carers fell from 37.3 per cent in 2018-19 to 30.8 per cent in 2021-22, while staff turnover rates remained at a similar level (29 per cent in 2021/22), meaning that a similar proportion left their roles with fewer staff to replace them.

Taken together, the figures suggest that longstanding difficulties in recruiting and retraining staff are behind the fall in overall workforce numbers, rather than a decrease in demand.

Speaking about Skills for Care’s report, Professor Martin Green, Chief Executive of Care England, said: “This report illustrates the impossible challenge currently facing independent care sector providers. A growing number of people are living with increasingly complex conditions but are being supported through an insufficient government funding pot.

“A lack of government action has had a significant consequence on providers’ ability to recruit and retain staff, with staff being lost faster than they can be replaced. The writing is on the wall and immediate help is urgently required to secure the future sustainability of the sector.”


In-work poverty increasing among social care workforce

Using national survey data from April 2017 to April 2020, the Health Foundation found that around one in 10 residential care workers experienced food insecurity during this time, with 13 per cent of residential care workers’ children living in material deprivation – unable to afford essentials like fresh fruit and vegetables or a warm winter coat. Among the children of all working families, this figure stood at 5 per cent.

Care home staff were also found to be twice as likely to be in receipt of in-work benefits compared to all workers, with around 20 per cent of residential care home workforce drawing on universal credit and other legacy benefits from 2017 to 2020, compared with 10 per cent of all workers.

Given that these figures account for the period before the latest cost of living crisis and Covid-19, the Health Foundation suggests that the picture has likely worsened since 2020; food costs rose by 13 per cent in August 2022 and the annual rate for clothing and footwear was 7.6 per cent in the year to August 2022, up from 6.6 per cent the previous month.

Commenting on the Health Foundation’s report, Hugh Alderwick, Director of Policy at the Health Foundation, said: “Social care workers – who are mostly women – play a vital role in society but are among the lowest paid workers in the UK, and experience shocking levels of poverty and deprivation. Many cannot afford enough food, shelter, clothing and other essentials, putting their health at risk.”

With inflation topping 10 per cent following the Chancellor’s disastrous September ‘mini-budget’, and showing no signs of dropping, there are real fears for the ability of the social care workforce to function under the current circumstances.

Many criticised the absence of a workforce plan in Health and Social Care Secretary Thérèse Coffey’s announcement to the House of Commons in September. The latest reports have prompted renewed calls for the government to issue a comprehensive and fully-funded workforce plan for social care in England, as well as broader measures that tackle the root causes of poverty.

The Health Foundation accuses the government of prioritising the needs of the wealthy over the needs of average workers, although considerable funding has recently been made available to provide support with energy bills. However, they argue that “despite [the government’s] 45p tax rate U-turn, its plan for growth will mostly benefit the richest households.”


“£15 an hour – it’s the least they deserve”

Hugh Alderwick added: “Sustained underfunding of social care has contributed to unacceptable pay and conditions for staff and major workforce shortages, with vacancies in England rising by 52 per cent last year. This reflects political choices. If government values people using and providing social care, it must act to tackle low pay and insecure employment conditions in the sector.

“People on low incomes are most likely to struggle through the current cost-of-living crisis, and poverty in the UK is set to increase. Yet government’s plan for growth prioritises tax cuts over investment in public services – with a further squeeze on public spending likely to follow.”

GMB, the general workers’ union, is citing the report in it calls for social care workers to receive £15 per hour. Rachel Harrison, GMB Nation Officer, said: “Care workers are an immensely skilled, compassionate workforce who do an incredible difficult job. Instead of being properly rewarded, they are expected to survive on a whisker above the minimum wage.

“Essential care is delivered by underpaid and mostly women workers. And without the dedication of our care workers the whole house of cards will come tumbling down. GMB is campaigning for care workers to be paid no less than £15 an hour – it’s the least they deserve.”

News, Social Care, Workforce

Social care: a sector now in perpetual crisis 

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social care

Association of Directors of Adult Social Services reports dramatic rise in numbers of those seeking review or start of social care provision.


The number of people awaiting review of current provisions, start of a service or direct payment for social care, has increased by 37 per cent from November 2021 to April 2022, according to a count carried out by The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) in 83 councils.

Almost 300,000 people are waiting for an assessment of their needs by social workers, an increase of 90,000 (44 per cent) in five months. One in four has been waiting longer than six months. At this rate, the number waiting can hit 400,000 by November 2022, a two-fold increase from last year.

While demand for care is expected to increase in line with winter pressures, peaking around January and dropping in the spring, the findings from ADASS suggest that the typical ‘cycle’ of system pressure is changing, being replaced by a state of perpetual crisis.

To the outside observer, those stating that social care is in crisis may sound like a broken record. For years now, however, stakeholder groups and think tanks have been warning that crippling staff shortages, precarious pay, working conditions and insufficient funding had left a system on its knees, even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.


A shrinking (paid) workforce

The crux of the issue is relatively simple, if not profound in scale – as Cathie Williams, ADASS Chief Executive put it: “the big reason why almost 40,000 people are waiting for the care and support they need to actually start is that care providers simply do not have the pairs of hands they need to sustain services.”

A recent PPP report, The Social Care Workforce: Averting a Crisis, quotes a 2021 survey of 2,000 social care services undertaken by the National Care Forum (NCF) that reveals how 74 per cent of providers have experienced an increase in the number of staff leaving since April 2021. Indeed, the vacancy rate for care home providers has nearly doubled in the last year, from 5.9 per cent (in March 2021) to 10.3 per cent (in May 2022).

The NCF survey also states that 50 per cent of those leaving highlighted stress as the main reason for their departure, with 44 per cent citing poor pay. Due to poor retention of the social care workforce, existing employees are experiencing an increase in workload that has not been accompanied by an increase in pay thus far.

Care workers are paid a median hourly rate of £9.50, in line with the National Living Wage. However, a high proportion of these workers are employed on zero hours contracts – 41 per cent of social care workers in London are on such contracts. To that end, social care professionals often leave the sector for less demanding and/or better paid jobs such as retail roles or jobs in the NHS, where similar skills are often more appreciated and rewarded.

ADASS has discovered a similar pattern – almost seven in ten ADASS members surveyed said that care providers in their area had closed or handed back contracts. Many more said they could not meet all needs for care and support because of providers’ inability to recruit and retain staff. The implications of this are significant. When people’s needs are unmet (or unknown), this can place a sizeable burden on their lives and on the lives of unpaid carers who may feel obliged to step in. Indeed, over the last ten years, the number of young people aged 16-25 in England and Wales providing unpaid care to family and loved ones has risen to approximately 350,000.


“The picture is deteriorating rapidly”

Councils are simply overwhelmed. The ADASS Spring Survey found that most councils were facing an increase in numbers of people seeking support: 87 per cent said more were coming forward for help with mental health issues, 67 per cent reported more approaches because of domestic abuse or safeguarding, and 73 per cent reported seeing more cases of breakdowns of unpaid carer arrangements. In addition, 82 per cent of councils were dealing with increased numbers of referrals of people from hospitals and 74 per cent were reporting more referrals or requests for support from the community. To that end, the Health Foundation has estimated that an additional £7.6 billion will be needed to meet demand in 2022/2023.

Sarah McClinton, ADASS President, commented: “These new findings confirm our worst fears for adult social care. The picture is deteriorating rapidly and people in need of care and support to enable them to live full and independent lives are being left in uncertainty, dependency and pain.”

In September 2021, the government announced a new ‘Health and Social Care Levy’, effective April 2023 onwards – a 1.25 per cent increase in National Insurance contributions from employed people as well as pensioners. Yet, now more than ever, policy experts recommend that financial planning and smart allocation, elements that have been lacking in the past, are required to reap the maximum benefits from this additional funding. The Levy, which will aggregate to £5.4 billion over three years, has been reported to fund necessary reforms in the social care sector such as improving staff training and recruitment practices, initiatives for mental health well-being and new avenues for career progression. Yet, many regard this amount as insufficient – according to The Health Foundation, a further £7 billion will be required every year to tackle demographic and inflationary pressures and to increase staff pay.

While it is true that the COVID-19 pandemic significantly worsened the social care crisis, it is only one of the many crises that have exposed and underscored the foundational instability of this system. Since the 2016 Brexit vote, for instance, the vacancy rate of social care workers has increased year-on-year. Prior to this, 1 in 20 social care workers were EEA migrants, and since more than 90 per cent did not have British citizenship, many had to leave England. To mitigate concurrent widespread resignations, the government announced a Health and Care Visa that would help fast-track visa applications for those in the healthcare sector. However, care workers are not categorised in the list of eligible jobs.

More than 600 people are joining waiting lists to be assessed for care and support in England each day. Resolving issues other than funding are key for the successful integration of social care into effective healthcare. Greater efforts should be made for recruiting and retaining social care staff, especially younger people, by improving the pay, workload and working conditions in the sector. Otherwise, broken record or not, the system is in danger of collapse.

News, Social Care

Social care sector unprotected in energy price rises

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energy prices

With the country facing a stark cost of living crisis, social care representative bodies are calling on the government to do more to protect the sector.


The cost-of-living crisis continues to be the most pressing issue facing thousands of people across the country. Thus far, government policies announced to mitigate the risk to vulnerable people do not appear to apply to much of the social care sector, which so far, is dealing with the brunt of inflationary pressures without support.

Last week, Care England, the largest representative body for independent providers of adult social care in England, called on the government to take immediate action to prevent a widespread catastrophe within adult social care.

Figures released by Care England and Box Power CIC, a non-profit energy consultancy, demonstrate the extent of the problem the care sector faces. Their data estimates that to secure future gas and electricity supplies from October 2022, care providers will have to pay, on average, £5,166 per bed, per annum. This represents an increase of 683 per cent compared to last year, when those same providers would have paid, on average, £660 per bed, per annum.

Based on the October 2022 market rates, and with 454,933 CQC registered beds, the approximated impact of the rising energy prices over the last year on the sector is over £2bn per annum. Further research from the Centre for Health and the Public Interest (CHPI) estimates the sector’s total pre-pandemic profits before tax, rent payments, directors’ renumeration and repayments on loans at £1.5bn per annum.

The expected rise in energy prices will see profit margins generated across the sector eradicated, driving many providers into insolvency and reducing the potential for investment. Care England have written to Members of Parliament asking them to pledge their support for immediate and targeted support for the sector.

Government financial measures announced so far only apply to people living in their own households and not to people living in social care settings where energy costs are running out of control. Nor does the Ofgem energy price cap apply to social care providers.

In a statement issued by the CEO of the National Care Forum, the association for not-for-profit care and support organisations, Professor Vic Rayner OBE said: “The eye watering increases in energy cost is a very serious concern amongst our members. They are facing price rises of 400 per cent in gas and electricity prices which is totally unaffordable and way beyond anything budgeted or forecasted. This is causing immense pressure for social care providers.

“We need an urgent response from the government that will put a protection around people living in residential care settings – it is important to note that these people do not currently benefit from the government’s announced support for energy costs faced by households – all current and proposed schemes will not address the immediate crisis impacting on care homes right now.

The current energy crisis comes at a time when the sector is experiencing the worst workforce pressures the sector has ever known, with the vacancy rate currently resting above 100,000, and expected to grow. Rayner added that: “we must see parity of support for vulnerable people living in care settings; we need care settings to be included in the domestic price cap, and we need an emergency ring-fenced energy fund which could flow from central government to local care providers.

“Social care providers need assurance now of the financial support that will be available in order to effectively plan for the sustainability of their service provision.”

How Tunstall Healthcare is investing in the leaders of the future 

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Global market leading health and care technology company, Tunstall Healthcare is investing in the next generation of health, housing and social care professionals with the launch of a new range of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) accredited courses.


Part of ‘Tunstall Academy’, the online courses have been developed by Training Accreditation Programme (TAP) and CIPD accredited trainers. The courses aim to strengthen the knowledge and expertise of professionals in a range of areas related to health and care technology. The first courses available focus on telehealth and a range of other courses relate to the remote management of specific long term conditions including COPD, heart failure and diabetes. A Telecare Assessor course will be available soon, which will be followed by a number of other telecare-focused courses.

Gavin Bashar, UK Managing Director at Tunstall Healthcare, commented: “The role of technology in adult social care has been radically reshaped over the past couple of years, leading to 63% of directors in adult social care reporting that their local authorities are implementing positive investment strategies in digital and technology.

“We must therefore work to upskill staff members in these sectors to improve care service delivery, facilitate collaboration, and build a bigger and better workforce post-Covid. Our specialist training team works closely with participants to help them get the most out of technology for their own organisations and the people they support, and ensure they are ready to make the most of a more digital future as we transition to a fully digital communications network.”

CPD courses enable professionals to stay up to date with current and best practice in their chosen field, enhancing their skills and effectiveness in the workplace. Tunstall also offers a number of non-CPD accredited courses which can be delivered online or in person, designed to upskill people working in monitoring centres and group living environments as well as those delivering telecare and telehealth services.

All courses are designed for a range of learners, from beginners to advanced professionals, and can also be configured to develop skill sets for particular job roles, as well as achieving broader personal and organisational objectives, such as meeting TEC Services Association standards and enhancing customer experiences.

Andy Hart, Head of Technical Delivery and Support at Tunstall Healthcare, added: “People are the greatest asset of any organisation, and at Tunstall we have a responsibility to drive change across the sector as a whole. We are committed to educating and upskilling the next generation of professionals in the use of telecare and telehealth technology to modernise our health, housing and social care systems.

“Technology enabled care solutions (TECS) support individuals to live independently for longer and alleviate pressures on care and health services. It’s crucial that professionals are aware of the benefits of technology within service provision so that it can be deployed effectively, and education plays a key role in achieving this.”

Tunstall Academy brings together a range of initiatives designed to raise awareness of the value and potential of technology across the health, housing, and social care landscape, and to increase the benefits to users, carers, professionals and providers.

To find out more about the training services available, please visit www.tunstall.co.uk/training-services.

The Health and Social Care Committee’s report on the care workforce; what is missing?

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social care workforce

On 25th July, the Health and Social Care Committee (HSCC) published their report, Workforce: recruitment, training and retention in health and social care.


The report calls for the government to provide its workforce plan for the NHS and social care (promised in spring 2022 but still not yet published), and provides several practical recommendations for the plan. Refreshingly, large sections of the report focus specifically on the social care workforce; a workforce often ignored in conversations around health and care.

The report appropriately recognises the gravity of the situation facing the social care sector, stating that, in comparison to the NHS, “the situation is regrettably worse in social care”, referencing incredibly high staff vacancy and turnover rates and poor working conditions.

Key recommendations in the HSSC report regarding the social care workforce include:

  • Higher baseline pay for care workers, reflecting the true value to society of the services they provide
  • Sustainable strategies in terms of pay progression, professional development, and career pathways
  • Contract choices offered to care workers on zero-hours contracts
  • A call for the government to produce an externally validated care certificate, provided at no cost to care providers, and is transferable between care providers and the NHS

While the report makes some promising recommendations, it falls short in several areas. On 26th July, Public Policy Projects (PPP) launched its report, The Social Care Workforce: averting a crisis.

This report was based on two roundtables with PPP’s Social Care Policy Network, held in May 2022, made up of key stakeholders in the adult social care sector and a lived experience panel (comprising five individuals with first-hand experience of the social care system). While many of the conclusions and recommendations of the HSCC’s report have parallels in PPP’s report, PPP highlights further areas that the workforce plan should address.


A fairer deal for the social care workforce

The reports from HSCC and PPP are broadly aligned regarding their sentiments and recommendations around pay for care workers. It is evident that care workers must be paid more, and equivalent to, their NHS counterparts.

Both reports therefore include recommendations advocating increases to the baseline pay for care workers, to reflect the true value that care workers bring to society and reduce the number of care workers leaving for better paid jobs in retail, hospitality, or elsewhere. Both reports also agree that there must be pay progression in the care sector in line with that of the NHS Agenda for Change pay scale, providing opportunities for care workers to be paid fairly and to advance their careers.

The two reports agree that terms and conditions, as well as pay, must be improved for social care workers. They acknowledge that zero-hours contracts can provide instability for many adult social care workers, and that care workers do not tend to enjoy the same pension options, sick pay or overtime renumeration as equivalent NHS workers, nor do they receive the public admiration or ‘sweeteners’ (including NHS staff discounts offered by many businesses).

It is no secret that the social care sector is severely underfunded. In order to appropriately pay care workers, both reports agree that local authorities must be appropriately funded to provide the fair cost of care to providers, to ensure that self-funders are not subsidising the cost of workers’ wages. This will require substantial investment from government.

However, PPP’s report provides several additional recommendations for the elevation of the social care workforce. Crucially, PPP’s report focuses on the need for an elevation in the status of care work, to raise the profile of those working in care. The report notes the boost in public sentiment towards nursing that followed Florence Nightingale’s work during the Crimean war, and stresses the need for a similar shift to take place for care work. Not only would this ‘Nightingale shift’ boost staff morale, PPP’s report argues that it would help to address recruitment and retention issues, provided it is accompanied by improvements to pay and conditions.

To kickstart this ‘Nightingale shift’, PPP’s report recommends that the government should provide investment for positive advertising campaigns for social care careers, with clear messaging of the immense value of a career in care and its potential to transform lives. In conjunction with this, it recommends that care providers should be working with careers advisors in schools to promote care work to young people as an attractive and fulfilling career.

Another recommendation in PPP’s report, which was not addressed by the HSCC report, is the potential creation of cross-sector roles between health and care, as well as placements and secondments of NHS staff into social care. This would help raise the status of social care by actualising a parity of esteem between the NHS and social care workforces. It would also serve to increase the awareness and visibility of the social care system within the NHS, and aide in the integration of the workforces.


More training is not a panacea

Training was highlighted as a key area in the HSCC report. However, PPP’s Social Care Policy Network argues in the report that extra workforce training should not be conflated with the wider issues around attracting and retaining staff. PPP’s Lived Experience Panel were at pains to express that constant training and annual training renewal is often a poor use of time and resources and cannot be a substitute for meaningful sector reform.

Where PPP’s report addresses training is in their recommendation around the proposed Social Care Leaders Scheme, dubbed the ‘Teach First’ of social care. The care sector is in need of strong leadership, as registered managers are not always sufficiently prepared or trained for a job that carries substantial responsibility.

The Social Care Leaders Scheme, proposed by a steering group of leaders from the social care sector convened by the CareTech foundation, aims to attract high calibre talent to the sector by training bright university graduates for leadership roles in social care, emulating the successful Teach First model. The report calls for the government to reconsider its position on the partial funding of the scheme, which promises to elevate the sector, provide attractive careers, and improve leadership structures.

The HSCC report also focuses on mandatory Care Certificates, which should be offered, at no cost, to care providers, and are transferrable between care providers and the NHS. This is undoubtedly a sensible recommendation, and PPP’s report further recommends the establishment of a Royal College of Care Professionals. The institution of a Royal College would serve the dual purpose of professionalising the workforce and secure an elevation in its status, as well as providing a central body which can represent, support, and oversee the development of, the care workforce.

Finally, the report by the HSCC makes no mention of a vital section of the care workforce: volunteers. PPP finds that volunteers can greatly alleviate the burden on social care professionals and improve the experience of recipients of care. It is essential that volunteers are included in the workforce equation.

PPP recommends that the volunteer sector should be integrated into the workforce strategy and planning for social care, given the substantial value it provides. Further, it warns that the government must act soon to seize upon the enthusiasm for volunteering that built up during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For a truly comprehensive workforce plan which will truly elevate social care and reduce the immense pressure on the sector, these recommendations must, too, be incorporated. For more information on the report, please contact PPP’s Social Care Policy Analyst, Mary Brown, at mary.brown@publicpolicyprojects.com

More groups join call for fairer deal for social care

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social care sector

As the race to become the next Conservative leader and Prime Minister of the UK heats up, and the government accepts the recommendations from the independent NHS pay review bodies in full, Care England and Access for Social Care have urged the government to act to protect the standing of social care workers, in statements issued yesterday.


The calls echo recommendations contained in a summary document of a recent Public Policy Projects report on integrated care. The report argues that the social care sector should be placed on an equal footing with the NHS, both in terms of its representation within integrated care partnerships and investments made to accelerate digitisation and modernisation.

Representative groups are increasingly urging the government to ensure suitable plans are in place to protect social care, amid an increasingly dire workforce shortage that is threatening the sector’s ability to provide its services. Vacancy rates in social care (9.5 per cent in January 2022) remain stubbornly above the national average (4.4 per cent from December 2021 to February 2022), while more than 400,000 social care workers left their roles in 2021.


A fairer deal for social care must be a priority

On Tuesday 19th of July, the government accepted, in full, the recommendations of the independent NHS pay bodies, meaning more than one million staff who fall under the Agenda for Change contract will receive a pay rise. This includes nurses, midwives, and paramedics, who are set to benefit from a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year, backdated to April 2022.

Groups who represent and advocate for the social care sector are now urging the government to implement a similar deal for care workers.

While rates of pay for social care work have increased in real terms since 2014, the rate of increase has not kept pace with other sectors, decreasing the social care sector’s ability to compete in the jobs market. Data shows that when overall national employment rates fall, vacancies in social care rise, suggesting that the sector is struggling to attract and retain workers.

The King’s Fund cites “high levels of staff vacancies, sickness absence, turnover, and work-related stress [as] having a damaging impact on staff,” and calls “the case for a fully funded, multi-year health and social care workforce plan… overwhelming.” Although many of these factors were exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the King’s Fund and other groups maintain that they long predate the pandemic and are the results of successive governments neglecting the social care sector.

In October 2021, the Workforce Recruitment and Retention Fund made £162.5 million available to local authorities to help recruit and retain social care workers, along with a further £300 million in December 2021. However, both funds lapsed in March 2022.


A neglected care sector

Poor staff retention is being further compounded by increased pressure on the social care system. The number of new requests for social care support have increased by 5.6 per cent, while costs have risen by more than a quarter, with areas with higher levels of deprivation being disproportionately affected.

Lack of available social care capacity is also increasing pressure on the acute hospital sector as hospitals have fewer methods of discharging patients safely. This is causing unsustainably high hospital occupancy rates and serving to undermine the wider healthcare system.

In a statement issued yesterday, CEO of Access Social Care, Kari Gerstheimer, warned about a “complete lack of discourse about the future of the social care system,” in the current leadership race, and claims the outgoing Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has all but abandoned his pledge to “fix social care once and for all.”

The concerns mirror those expressed by UNISON Social Care Lead, Gavin Edwards, who said on Wednesday that “the scale of vacancies is alarming, and not just for those who rely on care and their families. The sorry state of social care is having a disastrous effect on the NHS, causing massive treatment waits, letting down patients and putting unbearable pressure on health staff.

“The care sector is acutely underfunded. Wages are way too low leaving staff unable to cope with the rising cost of living. Supermarkets are paying better rates without the stress, so it’s no surprise that people are jumping ship.”
In Care England’s statement, released on Thursday, Chief Executive Professor Martin Green OBE, said: “The adult social care workforce is our biggest resource. The lack of government action has had an inevitable consequence on the nature of employment opportunities within the sector and has hampered providers’ efforts to recruit and retain staff, as evidenced by the 52% increase in vacant posts in the sector over the past year. This has not only affected the overall financial attractiveness of the adult social care sector as an entity, but also providers’ ability to compete with the NHS.

“As a first step, Care England suggests the Government accepts the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission for the 2023 rates, however, this increase must be properly funded. Simply applying National Living Wage inflation without appropriate funding undermines the ability of providers to aid workforce pressures, especially given the fact that providers are having to pay increases above the National Living Wage annual uplifts as a means of recruiting and retaining staff.”

Kari Gerstheimer added that ”as Sunak and Truss fight it out, there is everything to play for by way of their approach to Health and Social Care. The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services has warned that the year ahead will be the most challenging people needing and working in adult social care have ever faced. I am saddened, however, to see social care being kicked down the road with little mention of any commitments from either leadership contender about the future of the social care system.

“Failure to invest in social care amounts to poor fiscal planning and inefficient use of taxpayers’ money – it harms our productivity because people with unmet social care needs can’t reach their potential, and unmanageable caring roles keep people out of work. It harms those working in social care, who are choosing to leave the sector because of problems with pay. And it harms our health system because a failure to invest early in preventative social care leads to more crisis admissions in critical care.”

Acute Care, News, Social Care

Innovation uptake in West Midlands reduces A&E visits from care home residents by 30%

By
West Midlands innovation social care

The West Midlands Academic Health Science Network (WMAHSN) has released its 2021-22 Impact Report, highlighting the innovative solutions that have contributed to improving health and generating income growth across the West Midlands, and nationally. 


Key achievements outlined in the report include a 30 per cent decrease in A&E visits from care home residents, across the West Midlands, as a result of the spread and adoption of deterioration management tools such as ‘Stop and Watch’.  

Over 1,255 West Midlands care homes engaging in the test and adoption of deterioration management tools to improve safety for care home residents. More than 1,365 patients in the region are also benefiting from the prescription of PCSK9i inhibitors, a revolutionary medicine that helps lower cholesterol.  


About the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network 

The WMAHSN is one of 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) across England and plays a pivotal role in ensuring innovations are shared faster regionally, nationally and internationally. Its goal is to make the West Midlands healthier, more productive and deliver the best possible clinical outcomes for patients. 

AHSNs connect the NHS and academic organisations with local authorities, the third sector and industry, and create the conditions to facilitate change across health and social care economies. 


Over the last two years, the organisation has grown to support the efforts around delivering its strategic programme themes, which includes cardiovascular disease prevention, mental health resilience, and workforce innovation and transformation.  

The new report highlights the WMAHSN’s ability to adapt and pivot its services to address the region’s shifting needs and priorities, including supporting the region’s response to the pandemic. This not only demonstrates its ability to remain agile, but also how the organisation is uniquely placed to support the needs of its partners and future proof the region’s healthcare sector, for years to come. 

Tony Davis, Director of Innovation and Commercial at the WMAHSN, said: “It is our mission to transform health and social care through innovation. Therefore, it is inspiring and positive to see organisations across the region adopting these innovations to respond to our complex health, and social care system. 

“In collaboration with partners, and organizations around the West Midlands, we intend to keep strengthening our ability to work nationally, regionally, and locally, and maintain the environment we have helped create to improve the overall health and wellbeing of our communities.” 

As the WMAHSN approaches its tenth birthday in 2023, the organisation continues to aid local health and care systems, looking at how its workforce supports NHS England and NHS Improvement, and the Office for Life Sciences priorities, ensuring that patients in the West Midlands have access to the best health and care services. 


Other key highlights from the WMAHSN Impact Report includes:

  • Four providers in the West Midlands have adopted HeartFlow, a non-invasive, cardiac test for stable symptomatic patients with coronary heart disease. Over 5,000 scans were performed nationally during last year led nationally by the WMAHSN.
  • A 30 per cent decrease in A&E visits from care home residents, across the West Midlands, as a result of the spread and adoption of deterioration management tools such as ‘Stop and Watch’. Over half of care homes (63 per cent) in Staffordshire and Stoke-On-Trent have fully adopted the deterioration management tools.
  • The creation of the QI Notify-Emlap application and a pilot scheme in partnership with The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust. The app supports clinicians to use their National Emergency Laparotomy Audit data more efficiently to drive their emergency laparotomy quality improvement work. Early results from the pilot suggests regular usage could reduce ‘Door to Theatre’ time.
  • Promoting alternative forms of treatment to those from an ethnic minority background, living with a learning disability or autism with the STOMP project. The project aims to reduce the over prescription of antipsychotics, often oversubscribed to these groups, by increasing medication reviews.

To read the full impact report, visit the WMAHSN website.