Dimensions response to Next Steps to Put People at the Heart of Care

We are dismayed that the Government has reneged on its promise to develop the social care workforce and cut promised funding by half.

In December 2021, the Government pledged to invest “at least £500m over the next three years” to the social care workforce in its white paper People at the Heart of Care.

The Department of Health and Social Care has now said its plan to boost skills and training in the workforce will be reduced to £250m.

Far from giving the sector the “the status it deserves” as the government claims; it sends the opposite message.

Dimensions Chief Executive, Rachael Dodgson, said: “The same heroes for whom the nation clapped in 2020, and who have continued to go above and beyond to support older and disabled people across the country to live a better life, are bearing the brunt of public spending cuts.”

With an average vacancy rate of 21% and significant limitations to the home office sponsorship scheme, the priority must be recruitment and retention.”

It has been 16 months since People at the Heart of Care was published and so far, nothing substantial has been delivered apart from delays and very significant reductions in the ambition of the reforms. The government has repackaged and reduced existing promises of support and funding, only to announce them as if they are new.

The situation is exacerbated by the removal of the £300m investment promised to councils to build specialist accommodation for health and care. There is a lack of recognition that housing is fundamental to care and one isn’t possible without the other.

Workforce is the biggest challenge facing providers of adult social care.

The Next Steps to put People at the Heart of Care policy acknowledges the need to tackle “the perception of social care as a career is our priority” and yet there is no mention of a workforce plan recommended by the Hewitt Review of integrated care systems.

The policy proposes a new care workforce pathway, a new Care Certificate qualification, a skills passport to provide a verifiable record of training and qualifications, and a range of new, funded training schemes.

Dimensions has been calling for a plan for the social care workforce in its Workforce Manifesto. Central to this is a request for support worker pay to be aligned to NHS Band 3, a benchmark that reflects the skills required. Work in social care won’t achieve the respect it deserves and become a sought-after career unless pay is increased.

It’s difficult to understand  how calls for the expansion of the NHS Volunteer Responders programme to include social care will significantly address the shortage of support workers.

Rachael Dodgson commented: