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Social care white paper does not address workforce crisis, warn think tanks

Social care white paper does not address workforce crisis, warn think tanks

The long-awaited social care white paper does not do enough to address the workforce crisis engulfing the sector, healthcare think tanks have said.       

The Government’s ‘ten-year vision’ for social care, published yesterday, outlines details on how the £1.7bn earmarked to improve the sector over three years – including at least £500m for workforce – will be spent, as first announced in September as part of wider reforms.     

It said the £500m will fund measures including a continuous professional development budget for registered nurses, nursing associates and other social care clinicians, as well as a ‘knowledge and skills framework’ including ’career pathways’ to support staff progression.

It will also go towards standardised care certificates, outlining what is expected of care workers, and a new digital hub for workers to access support and a portable learning and development record.

The white paper also said £300m will fund specialist housing and repairs in homes to help people stay independent. And at least £150m towards technology to support independent living and focused care – for example, acoustic sensors to help monitor residents’ sleep.

However, NHS Confederation and Nuffield Trust have raised concerns the paper does not include a ‘significant’ workforce plans beyond the £500m already announced, and does not address the current ‘workforce crisis’.

Danny Mortimer, NHS Confederation deputy chief executive, urged the Government to launch a £1,000 retention bonus for care workers and add them to the Shortage Occupation List. 

‘The plan does little to address the urgent immediate pressures facing the people who rely on these vital services, including tackling severe staff shortages,’ he said.

Natasha Curry, Nuffield Trust deputy director of policy, said the paper is a ‘first step towards much-needed change to our broken system’, but highlighted there are ‘no proposals to significantly address low pay’ in social care despite a ‘deepening workforce crisis’.

She continued: ‘We have been here before. There are positive signs, however the Government must now rise to the challenge and back up words with the cash and bold and urgent action to pull social care back from the brink and deliver this vision.’

This comes after the Nuffield Trust warned yesterday that the social care workforce has shrunk by 42,000 in the six months leading up to the end of October.

Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘This ten-year vision clearly lays out how we will make the system fairer and better to serve everyone, from the millions of people receiving care to those who are providing it.

‘We are investing in our country’s future – boosting support to help people live at home with their families for longer and ensuring that health and care work hand in hand so people get the help they need,’ he added.

The £1.7bn funding for the white paper comes from the Health and Social Care Levy, funded by a 1.25% rise in National Insurance, and introduced to reform social care and clear the NHS backlog.

Overall, the levy is expected to make £36bn over three years, most of which will go towards the NHS. Of the £5.4bn earmarked for social care, £3.6bn will also pay for the new cap on care costs meaning no one should pay more than £86k on care in their lifetime.

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