Caroline Dinenage is the recently appointed Minister for Care at the Department of Health and Social Care. Care Talk caught up with Caroline and asked her about her thoughts on the current state of social care and how the Government’s vision for the sector.
When a government department undergoes a name change it’s never just on a whim.
The renaming of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), gives social care joint billing. It makes a strong statement about the way these two aspects of our nation’s health and wellbeing are valued and why they must work together to truly improve outcomes.
As Minister for Care, I have joined DHSC at a pivotal time for the care and support sector. Indeed, when we consider the state of adult social care in England, it’s easy to talk in clichés about crossroads, turning points and watersheds – but that is exactly where we find ourselves.
Our population is growing, aging and diversifying. At the same time, the money, means and methods we deploy to serve their long term health and care needs are under increasing pressure to deliver.
The social care green paper, to be published this summer, will seek solutions to relieving these pressures and our Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt recently set out seven clear principles which will guide our collective approach.
At its heart though, any long term solution must effectively address these three challenges:
- Growing and sustaining the care workforce,
- Identifying and supporting unpaid carers,
- Encouraging health, care and voluntary services to work more closely to support local communities.
The social care workforce is the backbone of the care sector. For many men and women working within it, social care is more than a job, it’s a vocation. During the recent bad weather, when they battled through the snow, wind and rain to reach people in need – their compassion and sense of duty went above and beyond their job descriptions. We owe them much gratitude. Attracting and retaining people with the same values and commitment is essential.
With this in mind, in December last year, Health Education England (HEE) published ‘Facing the Facts, Shaping the Future, a health and care workforce strategy for England to 2027’. The document set out the issues and concerns around service provision and offered draft proposals to stimulate debate.
And in February this year, we launched the adult social care workforce consultation with Skills for Care to explore solutions to workforce challenges including recruitment, retention, professional development and regulation.
We want to find new and better ways to expand, enhance and diversify the care workforce and promote social care as a positive career choice, including opportunities for progression into areas like nursing. As care workers form the bulk of the workforce we neglect their skills and aspirations at our peril.
Now, there are thousands of care workers in England, but we also have hundreds of thousands of unpaid carers out there – the ‘hidden army’ of family, friends and community volunteers that make each day possible. Without them, the health and care system would simply grind to a halt.
Many of us will become carers at some stage in our lives. Indeed, around one in ten adults are in that position right now. It’s a profound change in personal circumstances – a change many embrace willingly, but nearly always without sufficient recognition or support.
Carers Trust and Carers UK have been doing great work in this area with their promotion of Carer Passports to help identify carers and set out offers of support and other benefits. We also partnered with Timewise, a flexible working jobs board, on an online Carers Hub to help more carers find work. This department continues to enthusiastically support these and other ventures.
The green paper is not the final word, but your voices will shape the conversation, helping us deliver compassionate care for those we love and respect.