The political consensus for social care reform is there in spades – but the political will is not
Until the Treasury realises the net worth of the social care sector and the fact that it is a vital part of the national infrastructure, we will not have the necessary funding.
Whilst social care was given a dismissive kick into the long grass again by the government, what was notable was the cross party support from MPs and Peers for reform. As the largest representative body for independent providers of adult social care, what is clear to Care England is that the political consensus is there in spades, but the political will is not.
Social care is a complicated issue and one that requires a strategic response not a sticking plaster. It cannot however be put into the ‘too difficult box’ as we all know the consequences; providers will fail causing unprecedented heartache, distress and complications to those in receipt of, or working in the sector, which of course employs more than those working in its sister organisation, the NHS.
There is no need for further reviews, commissions or inquiries. The taxpayer has, albeit unknowingly, been shelling out for such reviews for decades many of which were excellent but have been gathering dust for far too long.
The omission of social care reform from the Queen’s Speech was a hugely missed opportunity by the Prime Minister
Social care needs to be put on an equal footing with the NHS, its marvellous staff need to be recognised and rewarded with at 10 year workforce plan. Funding needs a significant injection, as posited by the Health and Social Care Select Committee, by at least £7 b per annum. It is essential to have proper integration with health and social care. We need a new vision for social care, one based on outcomes.
Care needs to be a career of choice, not simply something that people fall into. It needs to be on a par with careers in the NHS not just in terms of status, but also in terms of access to training, resources, and benefits. We have come a long way from the beginning of the pandemic when our workers found it impossible to be recognised as key workers. How the pendulum has swung and we need to harness that swing and push for a better deal for care workers.
Of course, none of this is possible without the financial resources. Until the Treasury realises the net worth of the sector and the fact that it is a vital part of the national infrastructure, we will not have the necessary funding.
Over and above all reforms, the guiding principles need to be commissioning for outcomes and thus ensuring that the person is at the centre. This should be a seamless journey for the person in need of support. Innovation, technology and social care staff, who are the sector’s best resource, can bring this about but we need the political will to be in place.
The omission of social care reform from the Queen’s Speech was a hugely missed opportunity by the Prime Minister; keeping with a swathe of former leaders who similarly dodged the issue.
The pandemic has shone a spotlight on social care and I believe that reform is within touching distance. Frustration aside, let’s harness the political consensus and ensure that reform becomes a buzz word associated with the 2021 Parliament, our 2021 moment.
Professor Martin Green is the CEO of Care England.