Social care is facing its biggest transformation in a generation. There is the dual challenge of protecting those who receive and work in care during the pandemic while also beginning a decade long journey of reform. It is a turning point for the sector.
As Minister for Care and Mental Health, I have picked up the baton from my predecessor Helen Whately – working to ensure we continue to do everything we can to keep people safe.
This includes providing priority vaccines and testing, record workforce funding, free PPE and spending billions of pounds on infection control to protect people and ensure improved ventilation in care homes to limit the spread of COVID-19 and other airborne viruses.
This support will continue as we battle the Omicron variant armed with a highly successful booster campaign. Already many staff and almost all care home residents have received their booster and it is vital everyone who hasn’t yet taken up this offer gets boosted now to keep themselves and those they care for safe.
The pandemic has shown how important an effective social care system is and how amazing and valued the workforce is, however, it has also focused attention on where we need to improve in the longer term.
We need much better integration with the NHS, we need a fairer charging system and the workforce needs and deserves more support.
That is why we launched a ten-year plan to improve adult social care in December, why we will bring forward further plans for integration and why we are changing how people pay for care.
My family has experienced the unfairness in our current system. My nan worked in a biscuit factory in Merseyside and lived in a council house. She worked hard and saved all her life, she was cautious and sensible. When the chance came to own her house, under Right to Buy, she took the opportunity but had to sell it and by the end of her time in care everything had gone except £14,250.
We cannot continue with the unfair system of unlimited costs which is why we are putting the £86,000 cap in place, to help everybody as part of our reforms. This will represent a significant increase in state support.
As well as making charging fairer we have to improve care for everyone too. We have already set out funding to help increase the range and amount of supported housing and offer a greater choice, care and support alongside a new practical service to make repairs and changes in peoples’ homes to help them remain safe and either stay with their families or live independently in accordance with their wishes.
I recently visited a couple in their nineties who were able to remain together in their home with support from a home care provider and the necessary adaptations which are often needed as you get older. We want as many people as possible to have this opportunity and choice, but it won’t be possible without the funding and the workforce to do it.
We cannot set pay as we do not employ care staff but what we can do is support them with the raising of the national living wage, an extra £462.5 million recruitment fund and £500 million for training and support – on top of our Made with Care recruitment campaign which this month will involve showcasing some of the great work being done by people working in social care.
Throughout the pandemic there have been so many exemplary examples of the NHS and social care going above and beyond, showing what is possible when people work together. Soon we will publish our ambitions on shared electronic health and care records and a more joined-up approach to the workforce in our integration white paper.
I know the challenges facing adult social care both in the short and the long term and we will not shy away from them. I am looking forward to continue working with the sector so we can build the health and care system we all want.