The Department for Health and Social Care has announced a new funding arrangement for the social care workforce in England, which will see the promised amount of funding halved from £500m to £250m. The reduction has been strongly criticised by council leaders and charities, The Guardian website reports.
Despite previously pledging £500m in a white paper published in 2021, the government will now be investing half this amount. The demand for adult care services is already at record levels, with an estimated 500,000 on the waiting list. Meanwhile, almost a quarter of the workforce have left their jobs over the past few years.
It is estimated that there are 165,000 vacancies in the social care sector, which has led to some providers cutting back on their operations. Some of the £250m funding will go towards home adaptations to help disabled and older people remain independent in their own homes, reducing the pressure on care placements and hospitals.
Sally Warren, director of policy at health thinktank The King’s Fund, criticised the revised funding plans.
She told The Guardian: “Demand for social care is at a record high, levels of public dissatisfaction have slumped to a new low and staff vacancies have never been higher,” she said. “These revised steps towards ‘reform’ will do little to radically change the system and, at best, are the bare minimum needed to stop it from collapsing.”
Meanwhile, Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK, a charity which supports people who care for family member, friends, or neighbours at home, said: “It is so disappointing that 18 months after publishing a social care strategy the Government’s plan involves rolling back its funding commitment to the care workforce by half.”
She added: “This issue lies at the heart of social care and to invest the promised £500m and tackle it properly would make such a difference to the sector. Paid-for care is a vital source of support for families, allowing unpaid carers to work or get a break. This is a massive missed opportunity to improve the lives of so many people.”
The social care minister, Helen Whately, defended the decision. Speaking to BBC News, she said: “Care depends completely on the people who do the caring – that’s over a million care staff working in care homes and agencies, and countless relatives, friends and volunteers, acting out of the kindness of their hearts.”
Adding that the new plan contained “better use of technology, the power of data and digital care records and extra funding for councils – aiming to make a care system we can be proud of”.
The government also claimed that the new plans will contain a new care workforce pathway which will focus on increased rates of recruitment and retention within the care sector. According to the BBC, public sector care workers are paid £11.03 per hour, while those in the private sector receive an average £9.66 per hour.
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