The government is under pressure to publish a long-term social care workforce plan, following an announcement that it will support recruitment and retention in the social care sector with a £600 million funding package.
The funding includes a £570 million workforce fund over 2 years, which will be given to local authorities as ‘flexible’ funding, and £30 million funding for local authorities in the most challenged health systems.
The funding has been welcomed by disability charities, who say it is a “much-needed” step towards supporting social care through the winter months and into next year.
However, the learning disability charity Hft is warning that the funding “does not go far enough to address the entrenched issues within the adult social care sector.”
Care providers struggling to make ends meet
Kirsty Matthews, CEO of Hft, says while it is “positive” to see that the government is starting to recognise the importance of funding the social care workforce, this funding is not a “sustainable, long-term solution” to the crisis facing the sector.
She said: “From our own Sector Pulse Check research, released in partnership with Care England, we know that continued funding shortfalls and cost pressures are having a significant impact on our sector. In 2022, 82% of care providers were in deficit or faced a decrease in their surplus as a result of increasing and unfunded workforce pay.
“81% of providers also reported that Local Authority fee increases did not cover the rising cost of the National Living Wage, let alone a higher, more competitive wage. The knock-on impact of this is insurmountable, with high vacancy rates, the unavoidable use of expensive agency staff and the need to turn away new admissions due to insufficient staff.
“While the Government attempts to address these shortfalls, and ‘build a stronger foundation for the health and social care workforce’, it fails to recognise that the already stretched social care sector requires a sustainable long-term funding solution to achieve and maintain these aims.”
Workforce plan needed to fill the 152,000 social care vacancies
Hft now want to see the government move away from winter-specific funds and towards long-term funding, which would allow organisations to have “more confidence in the financial stability of their services and for more informed conversations between providers and commissioners.”
“We would like to see a long-term social care workforce plan developed, similar to that which has been published for the NHS, to address the estimated 152,000 vacancies in our sector.
“Ultimately, the proposed funding is a step in the right direction but it only goes so far in helping the sector plan for the future and provide the best care possible,” she said.