‘Cash-strapped care sector needs public image boost’

9 May 18

The care sector is in “precarious state” and needs a sustainable funding plan this year - as well as a public image boost, a group of MPs has warned.

Adult social care is underfunded and there is an “urgent need to reverse [its] poor public image” to boost recruitment and retention, the Public Accounts Committee said in a report published today.

“The care sector is in a precarious state but the Department of Health and Social Care has not yet said how it intends to put in place a long-term, sustainable funding regime to meet the ever-increasing demand for care,” the MPs urged. 

They added: “Urgent action [is] required to reverse care work’s poor public image and boost recruitment and retention.” 

Committee chair Meg Hillier called for the government to publish a “credible long-term funding plan for care” this year.

“This must go hand-in-hand with financial and other support to improve the recruitment, development and retention of the care workforce.”

The PAC said workers in the adult social care sector were suffering low pay, low esteem and a high turnover of staff.

It criticised the DHSC for not being aware of whether the way local authorities commissioned care and the prices they pay providers were contributing to the problems with the workforce.

According to the DHSC, all local authorities – with the possible exception of Northamptonshire – appear to be fulfilling their minimum statutory duties under the Care Act 2014, the PAC noted.

But the committee added that only 27% of councils have arrangements in place to monitor unmet need.

The report identified the sector often prioritised people with critical care needs, meaning a growing number of people with moderate needs were not receiving the care they needed.

The PAC recommended the upcoming social care green paper should establish the funding local authorities needed to commission care at ‘fair prices’ and publish a “credible plan” by the end of 2018.

Problems with recruitment and retention of staff, the PAC concluded, was a result of the care workers not being regulated meaning development of well-trained professionals was “limited”.

It also said low funding given to the strategic body for adult social care workforce development Skills for Care had lead to low pay and esteem for those in the sector.

Glen Garrod, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, called for the social care green paper, due to be published this July, to provide a long-term funding solution for the sector. 

“The pressures on recruiting and retaining staff are very real, across the sector, and proper resourcing to ensure that social care is seen as the fantastic occupation that it is, must be delivered as well.”

Christina McAnea, union Unison’s assistant general secretary, said: “Low-paid staff are propping up a care system that has no funding, no strategy and no long-term solutions.”

The funding gap facing adult social care is expected to exceed £2bn by 2020, Linda Thomas, vice chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said.

She warned: “Unless immediate action is taken to tackle increasingly overstretched council budgets, the adult social care tipping point, which we and others have long warned about, will be breached, which will lead to a substantial increase in people’s care needs not being met and overspending by councils.”

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