Two disability charities are urging the new prime minister, Liz Truss, to provide a realistic financial support package for social care and tackle the chronic staff shortages in the sector.
Tim Cooper, CEO of United Response, which provides person-centred support to around 2,000 adults and young people with learning disabilities, mental health needs or physical disabilities, has written an open letter to the prime minister calling on her to:
Provide short-term emergency funding for providers to ensure they are able to cope with the rising cost of living this winter
Commit to benchmarking the minimum pay rate for social care workers to NHS Band 3 (currently £10.40) and to funding its introduction from April 2023.
Similarly, Amanda Bunce, Chairman of Trustees at national learning disability charity Hft, is urging the new prime minister to ensure that the Health and Social Care Levy remains in place and there is ring-fenced support available for social care providers.
People with a learning disability face additional costs of around £538 per month
“Everyone is feeling the strain at present but, combined with the rising cost of food and fuel, people with a learning disability face additional costs of around £538 per month to pay for essentials such as charging electric wheelchairs or communication devices, or to keep the house warm to stay healthy,” says Ms Bunce.
Ms Bunce says that Hft’s 2021 Sector Pulse Check research revealed that financial pressures, including the increasing cost of fuel, had forced over two fifths of providers to close down some parts of their organisation or hand back contracts.
“It is therefore vital that Liz Truss puts in place ring-fenced support to help providers weather this crisis at the earliest possible opportunity to ensure this trend does not continue,” she said.
She added that 71% of learning disability care providers were either in deficit or their surplus had decreased in 2021, and inflation, rising energy bills and the general cost of living will only exacerbate this.
“It is essential that Liz Truss takes immediate action to meet the myriad recommendations made by the sector in recent weeks so the adult social care sector is able to weather the storm of the coming winter, and continue to provide support in the years ahead to everyone who needs it,” she concludes.
A bleak outlook
Mr Cooper added that it is now clear that the proposals laid out in the Build Back Better plan, do not go far enough and “bold leadership” is now required to ensure social care does not fall into a deeper crisis.
He said: “The ongoing inertia in delivering a fair deal for social care workers poses dire consequences for our economy, financial as well as moral.
“As charitable providers are forced to look to how they can make cost-cutting savings and use reserves to see through the winter, the outlook for people who draw on social care is bleak.
“Bold leadership is required to arrive at a fair deal for social care workers and the people they support – it can only be delivered by equally bold political will. The time to act is now.”