Ken has been running national homecare provider Right at Home UK for 10 years and the multi-award-winning franchise network is now approaching 60 offices across England and Wales. It has an enviable record with CQC, achieving 8 Outstanding ratings in the past 15 months, equating to almost 40% of its inspections in England during that period.
The social care sector continues to face a number of challenges as it struggles to meet the growing needs of our ageing population. Uncertainty surrounding Brexit and its potential impact is of great concern for any business, and this is no different for those operating in the social care sector, with the Government’s firm focus on Brexit leading to several delays in the long-awaited Green Paper being published. With these delays comes an overwhelming feeling of lost confidence in politicians to make decisions that are in the best interests of the people who need help and support the most.
Social care (and indeed many other crucial issues), has slipped down the political agenda and we now have three major challenges surrounding the sector:
• A growing demand for services with an ageing population that has evolving and complex care needs. According to a recent report by The King’s Fund, local authorities received 1.84 million requests for social care support from new Clients in 2017/18.
• A supply of workers that are unable to keep up with demand and in fact, may be diminished by labour restrictions surrounding Brexit, that exacerbates the current difficulty to recruit and retain new people into the sector.
• A tightening budget for state-funded care, meaning that councils are struggling to fund social care and are therefore having to make short-term decisions based on limited funding, which are detrimentally impacting long-term care in the community.
The Government’s priority is to fund the fantastic work of the NHS, but what it needs to understand is that good quality homecare greatly reduces the burden on the NHS. It ensures that people are safely looked after in their own homes whilst ultimately reducing the number of people admitted to hospital. Surely the time has come for the Government, key providers and the NHS, to work together in order to have a realistic budget that supports homecare, residential homes and the NHS to split funds in a manner that fairly supports each area operationally and financially, whilst taking into account overall Government revenues.
However, a long-term non-political solution to social care, and indeed health, is also needed. One possible solution that has been talked about is distinctly separating the long-term social care budget, by having a specific tax and/or private care plans dedicated to social care. Increases in council tax or general tax rises can get lost in the bigger mix and allocated to other agendas. Therefore, any future revenue raising and spend has to be clearly set aside for social care. My concern is that politicians are making decisions that will keep them or get them in power, rather than what is best for the long-term benefit of those who need and rely on support.
The shortage of care workers now and in the future is very concerning. Only by allocating more money to social care can a realistic price be paid for care, which in turn allows providers to pay care staff well and introduce incentives to retain carers who do so much for the people they support.
It would also be good to see a much more positive portrayal of the excellent job that care staff and providers do, rather than the negative coverage we so often see in the media. For every bad news story, there are thousands of examples where CareGivers are truly improving quality of life for their Clients, but these types of stories are often ignored. Those working in the social care sector do an amazing job of supporting society’s most vulnerable people and until this is positively recognised by the media, it will remain a difficult task to attract new people into the sector.
Ultimately, funding must be planned for now and for the future to enable the vulnerable to have access to high-quality care and to help ensure we have a supply of carers meeting demand.