Investing in the workforce is key to the reform of social care

Peter Hand, Account Director at Healthcomms Consulting, lends his perspective to social care reform.

In the space of less than two weeks there have been three significant reports published relevant to the future reform of social care, and the importance of the social care workforce as part of that reform. Three different reports from which it is easy to draw three very similar conclusions.

Key to the future reform of social care is investing in the skills, reward and recognition of its workforce. Care and support workers – and all their colleagues in supporting roles – are the heroes of COVID-19 and deserve to see #ClapForCarers translated into something for more substantive.

First, we had the Care Quality Commission (CQC) report on the ‘State of Care’ – its annual landmark report on social care in England. The report highlighted the many challenges the social care system was facing before the pandemic, and how these have been exacerbated since. Significantly the CQC recommended, ‘There needs to be a new deal for the adult social care workforce that reaches across health and care – one that develops clear career progression, secures the right skills for the sector, better recognises and values staff, invests in their training and supports appropriate professionalisation.’ A New Deal for the workforce has long been called for and needed.

Skills for Care – an independent charity responsible for helping to create a well-led, skilled and valued adult social care workforce – then published its annual ‘The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England’ report. It revealed that the adult social care sector in England still needs to fill around 112,000 job vacancies on any given day. Using data provided by employers to the Adult Social Care Workforce Data Set (ASC-WDS) the report showed that while there had been a slight reduction in job vacancies, employers still needed to find thousands of new care and support workers to meet society’s expectations for care.

The following day the Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee published its report on Social Care: Funding and Workforce, calling for an immediate increase of £7 billion by the end of this Parliament, to avoid the risk of market collapse.

During its Inquiry, the Committee heard from a wide range of stakeholders from across social care, including the views of experts by experience, including people who access care and support, and members of the social care workforce. In addition, a cross-party group of MPs recommended that ‘action must be taken to improve the pay and recognition given to social care workers, establishing a clear career path that is more effectively aligned with the NHS.’

All of these reports highlight the importance of investing in the social care workforce, as a vital component of the wider reform of social care. It is only by ensuring greater recognition, reward and career progression for people who work in social care, we will see the changes the system requires if it is to deliver better quality outcomes for people who access care and support.

When the APPG for Adult Social Care was launched in Parliament in 2019, it published a report on the ’Future of Social Care’ and recommended that should be a more positive portrayal of the value and benefits of working in the sector, and a parity of esteem between health and social care workers.’

As our society and government learn the painful lessons from the tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic, a worthy legacy would be for our country to implement the long overdue reform of our social care system. Investing in the skills and recognition of the social care workforce must be a vital component of that legacy.

HCUK is responsible for the Secretariat of the APPG on Adult Social Care.

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