Boris Johnson’s September announcement of a plan to fund social care reform and NHS recovery in England was long-awaited, if not applauded. Critics question the extent to which the new health and social care levy the government proposes will be fair or sufficient. The newly announced cap on personal care costs has only added fire to their fuel.
The health secretary, Sajid Javid, is reportedly now considering plans to merge health and social care into a single organisation, funded by a single budget. Historical precedents suggest, though, that social care will lose out. As public policy expert Catherine Needham has pointed out: “Of the £36 billion that will be raised by this levy, only £5.4 billion will go to social care, and half of that will pay for the new care cap rather than address any of the existing strains in the system.”
The sector’s workforce, too, has been sorely tested. As the National Care Association underlines, even before the pandemic hit there were upwards of 124,000 vacancies in the sector.
Low wages, COVID stresses and an inhospitable immigration environment have since led to a staffing crisis. Faced with a reported 8.2% of places unfilled, recruiters describe the social care workforce as “completely falling to pieces”.
Among the reasons for these shortages are Brexit and other Home Office decisions around migrant workers. But on a more fundamental level, vacancies go unfilled because social care is not seen as a viable career option.
This, to many experts’ minds, speaks to the most pressing question facing not just those who work in adult social care, but society at large. Contrary to the narrow financial debate to which the government often reduces social care, campaigners, including the Social Care Futures project, are calling for a societal reckoning with what social care actually is and what we want it to be.
Providing support for the elderly and those with disabilities is not just a cost but an investment in social infrastructure. After all, the sector contributes £50.3 billion to the English economy. In that light, prioritising wellbeing for those in need and their carers is crucial, as is working to devise a better, data-led care system.
In order to understand what fixing social care in England actually looks like, The Conversation is running a webinar on December 2, 5:30PM GMT, the third in a series in partnership with the International Public Policy Observatory (IPPO).
The webinar will bring academics together to discuss the extent to which the pandemic has worsened the crisis the care sector faces, and what needs to be done now to ensure better policies and outcomes as we recover from COVID.
Commissioning editor Dale Berning Sawa will host the event, joined by:
Liz Jones, policy director, the National Care Forum;
Sir Geoff Mulgan, IPPO project lead and professor of collective intelligence, public policy and social innovation at UCL;
Jon Glasby, professor of health and social care at the University of Birmingham;
Isaac Samuels, freelance co-production advisor.
The webinar will be free to watch directly via these links on Facebook, YouTube and on Twitter. No registration is needed, but you can sign up to receive an email about the event and how to watch here.
IPPO was commissioned by the Economic and Social Research Council in response to COVID-19, to develop a knowledge system that is quick and responsive while also grounded in the latest and most robust global evidence. This webinar forms part of IPPO’s ongoing work on COVID-19’s unequal impacts on society, and how policymakers in all parts of the UK can best respond to this. To find out more about this groundbreaking project, sign up for the newsletter here.