The social care White Paper - new vision and opportunity for innovation, but funding dilemmas remain
Andrew Laird welcomes the publication of the social care white paper, and looks at what's new and what issues still remain.
After a long wait, the Government's Social Care White Paper has landed.
Much of the initial reaction has understandably centred on disappointment that the long-term funding question remains unanswered. A key outstanding question remains around the personal cap which will continue to be debated as part of the passage of the Health and Care Bill. Leaving that aside for others to discuss, I want to focus on what it means for the quality and sustainability of service provision.
The White Paper sets the right tone by putting people at the heart of its vision for care. There is evidence that the government has listened to the voices of those involved to setting this overarching direction. For me, the three person-centred objectives are the right ones: (1) choice, control, and support to live independent lives, (2) access to outstanding quality and tailored care; and (3) adult social care that is fair and accessible..
Looking at the detail of the spending commitments, I have a few specific reflections:
The commitment of at least £300m to integrate housing into local health and care plans is very welcome. Some innovative providers, such as PossAbilities CIC in Greater Manchester, are already working with councils and housing developers to develop supported housing offers. You can take a virtual tour around its new Cherwell Green apartments here. It's an incredible place which gives people 'their own front door' and a real feeling of independence. More of this type of work is sorely needed.
£500m to support workforce training is good news - but the biggest problem that social care providers are facing is that they can't compete with Amazon or Costa on pay. Recruitment and retention is a huge problem. Staff are working extra shifts, are exhausted, and many simply wouldn't have the time or energy for training. The sentiment around well-being is welcome but it's hard to see how this can be applied in the current environment.
The bit I am most excited about it is the £30m to help local areas develop new 'innovative models of care'. Yes, the funding is tight everywhere - but some areas have got it right by being brave and trying new things. The exact timing of this funding has not been announced but it offers councils the opportunity to explore a locally-based social enterprise model like PossAbilities CIC or Leading Lives in Suffolk. These organisations act as a bridge between the council and communities and can react with speed, creativity, and compassion, to a constantly changing environment.
There has to be a link to the government's 'levelling up' agenda but it doesn't feature highly in the paper. So far levelling up has been about bridges, roads, buildings, and now the direction of travel need to tilt towards the human side. Social care has a big part to play here.
There are strengths to the White Paper and there is a lot of good intent – but this was never going to be the final say on the matter. The debate will continue.
If you are interested to hear more about any of the subjects in this article then get in touch with Andrew Laird firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more of our thoughts on adult social care here.