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Care England, the largest and most diverse representative body of independent providers of adult social care, has today welcomed the Department of Health and Social Care’s ‘Next Steps to put People at the Heart of Care’ but has expressed disappointment in the reduction in workforce funding.

Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, says:

“Care England has long advocated that independent care sector staff should have appropriate training, fair pay and career structures in place that mirror their colleagues in the NHS. Today’s publication represents a positive step towards a national workforce strategy, with learning, development and training recognised as critical to workforce planning. Yet, today’s publication remains silent on workforce pay. Care England and Hft have recommended that the Government develops a pay framework to establish a minimum care wage, above the level of the NLW and tied to NHS band 3. There is an underlying tension that needs to be resolved, that if we are going to ask more of our care staff through training and development, they need to be renumerated appropriately, and currently Local Authority fees do not permit this. It is bitterly disappointing that these reforms are now due to be delivered with a significantly reduced funding pot. Independent sector providers want to adapt and innovate but workforce shortages have a profound impact on the quality and continuity of care and the sustainability of care services.”

The ‘Next Steps to put People at the Heart of Care’, published today on GOV.UK, sets out how the Department will build on the progress so far to implement the vision for care and support set out in the People at the Heart of Care White Paper.

Despite the two-year delay to the charging reforms, announced in the Autumn Statement, the wider reform programme is still going ahead.

Today’s allocations of over £2 billion previously announced funding include:

  • Launching a call for evidence in partnership with Skills for Care on a new care workforce pathway and funding for hundreds of thousands of training places, including a new Care Certificate qualification – aiming to increase opportunities for career progression and development, backed by £250 million
  • £100 million to accelerate digitisation in the sector, including investment in digital social care records so staff have the latest information at their fingertips to best meet the needs of those receiving care
  • A new innovation and improvement unit to explore creative solutions for improving care, such assupporting local authorities to reduce care assessment waiting times and using best practice from those areas where waiting times have already been cut by a third – backed by up to £35 million
  • A £1.4 billion Market Sustainability and Improvement Fund, which local authorities can use flexibly including to increase the rates paid to social care providers or reduce waiting times
  • £102 million over two years to help make small but significant adaptations people need to remain at home, stay independent and avoid hospital – including grab rails and ramps, small repairs and safety and security checks
  • £50 million to improve social care insight, data and quality assurance – including person-level data collections and new Care Quality Commission assessments of local authorities to improve poor performance on social care andidentify where further support is needed

Martin Green continues:

“A vehicle to drive change in the sector will be the new powers that allow the regulator to provide an independent assessment of care at a Local Authority and Integrated Care System level. The regulator needs to look to bridge the gap between health and social care, which has to stretch beyond structure. In practice, it must also encompass reforming commissioning, data and information practice and service delivery. This is particularly important within the context of the new information we have as a sector owing to the Fair Cost of Care exercise. Whilst it is evident that limited money is forthcoming to deliver the reform agenda, beyond that previously announced, we must grasp the nettle and look to deliver a sustainable sector, something which has not yet been achieved. We must work collaboratively over the coming months to help sustain the sector. The fragmentation in the sector has already proven to be untenable in the delivery of the latest discharge initiatives, and with newfound attention on integration and digitalisation, we need new ways of working and thinking if we are to deliver this ambition.”

Notes to the editor:

Sector Pulse Check 2022