Sector leaders have expressed their frustration and disappointment with latest government plans which appear to have slashed funding promised for the adult social care workforce in England in half.
A new government policy paper has today stated only £250m would be invested into the workforce over the next two years – half of the £500m that was previously promised.
But the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has insisted than up to £600m in funding is still yet to be allocated across the adult social care sector, meaning more money could still be given to the workforce in the future.
A white paper from late 2021 had set out £500m for workforce training, qualifications and wellbeing support.
However, in the new ‘People at the Heart of Care’ paper, published today, the government said just £250m would be invested to help ‘better recognise social care as a profession’ and ‘empower the workforce to deliver high quality, personalised care’.
The document said the funding would ‘provide the workforce with more support to develop and progress within their careers’ and would also help ‘improve the quality, safety and personalisation of care’.
It also said a new ‘national workforce pathway’ would be published, setting out the skills and knowledge needed to work in the sector, as well as ‘a career structure which shows people how they can develop and progress’ in social care.
But concerns have been raised across the sector about the considerably less funding available for the workforce, and some are worried wellbeing support measures have been axed completely.
Professor Vic Rayner, chief executive of the National Care Forum, said the reforms promised in the People at the Heart of Care white paper were ‘in tatters’.
She added: ‘At a time when the workforce is facing unprecedented recruitment and retention challenges… it is unconscionable that the government would reduce workforce funding and axe all wellbeing measures.
‘The government’s actions so far do nothing to stop growing unmet need or to combat shrinking capacity in the wider system.’
There are currently an estimated 165,000 vacancies in the adult social care sector due to recruitment and retention challenges.
Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said: ‘There is a desperate need to invest in the social care workforce, and it is disappointing that the government has reduced the amount of money available for this objective.
‘There is a lot of talk about integrating health and social care, and if this is to be made real, it has to include increasing the amount of money available in social care to develop the workforce.’
Meanwhile Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said it was ‘hugely disappointing’ that the funding had been halved while capacity in the sector is already at its lowest.
Ms Cordery added: ‘The social care sector urgently needs sustainable funding and reform, but the longer we wait for this, the more pressure will be put on the entire health and care system.’
These cuts are particularly troubling for social care providers like Mike Padgham, owner of St Cecilia’s Care Group and chair of the Independent Care Group.
Mr Padgham said he viewed the announcement as ‘yet another cruel and unfair cut to the funding we need to provide help and support to older and vulnerable people’.
Mr Padgham added: ‘The sector is going through an unprecedented staffing crisis. We need every penny of funding and cannot afford to have £250m removed at a stroke like this. The government insists that all promised funding will stay within the sector but we cannot believe a word they tell us anymore.
‘The sector is suffering demise by a thousand cuts and the people who will suffer most are the 1.6m people who cannot get care and the hundreds of thousands more who are finding they need help and support, every day.’
He added: ‘Care providers cannot afford to pay their staff properly and so the list of vacancies continues to grow, crippling the delivery of care. This cannot go on any longer.’
When asked for comment, the Department of Health and Social Care referred to its media fact sheet on adult social care reform which dismisses the notion that workforce funding has been halved.
‘It is not true to say we are halving funding for social care. No funding announced for adult social care has been removed from the sector or re-allocated to the NHS.
‘The prime minister has recently reiterated the importance of reforming the adult social care workforce with a focus on professional development, skills and career progression, and our £250 million investment in the workforce remains the biggest part of our reform package.’
It added: ‘Our remaining funding, up to £600 million, has not yet been allocated. We are considering how best to use this funding, including further investment in workforce, and will target this remaining funding on measures that will have the most impact.’