Government's Social Care Strategy Dubbed 'A Disappointment'

Peter Russell

December 02, 2021

The Government's strategy to reform adult social care in England has failed to live up to Boris Johnson's pledge to fix the system "once and for all", experts have warned.

The NHS Confederation said it would do little to address immediate pressure on providers and tackle severe staff shortages.

Think tank the Nuffield Trust criticised the white paper for failing to address low pay in the sector, while the former Conservative Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt described the Government's proposals as "a disappointment".

Funding Strategy

The proposals set out a 10-year strategy for social care.

Initially the document, People at the Heart of Care, details how more than £1 billion will be allocated for social care over the next 3 years. These include:

  • At least £150 million of additional funding to drive greater adoption of technology and digital tools to help support independent living and improve care quality

  • £500 million for training and the social care workforce

  • Up to £25 million to support unpaid carers

  • More than £70 million to improve the delivery of care and support services, including assisting local authorities in planning support and care

The plans are backed by the new Health & Care Levy announced in September that will see a transitional rise of 1.25% in National Insurance contributions for the next financial year starting in April 2022.

The white paper is part of the Government's wider social care plans, backed by £5.4 billion. It aims to limit to the cost of care for everyone in the adult social care system and increase state support.

The strategy "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," according to Sajid Javid, England's Health and Care Secretary.

'Deepening Workforce Crisis'

Jeremy Hunt, chair of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, said funding for the next 3 years "falls far short of the annual £7 billion sum that our evidence found would be necessary to fix social care".

Natasha Curry, deputy director of policy at the Nuffield Trust, commented: "Beyond the initial three years of the levy, it also heavily banks on the actions of future governments and the assumptions that funding raised can be diverted from the NHS to social care."

She added that the sector was "in the grasp of a deepening workforce crisis, losing as many as 42,000 staff in the last 6 months, but with no proposals to significantly address low pay, the strategy to tackle these urgent challenges remains uncertain".

NHS Providers described the white paper as "an important step towards a much-needed national vision for social care".

However, its director of policy and strategy, Miriam Deakin, said it was "disappointing that government has not fully seized this opportunity to place social care onto a sustainable footing", including "fully funded measures to improve pay and to tackle high vacancy levels in the social care workforce".

Sally Warren, director of policy at The King's Fund said: "Taken together, the Government's commitments do not match the ambition set out by the Prime Minister, or the urgency of change, that the people who draw on care and support rightly expect to see."

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