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Adult social care, what next?

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Over the past 12 months, the pandemic has continued to keep the spotlight firmly on adult social care; since taking the rotating helm of Chair of the Care Provider Alliance (CPA) in September 2020, Kathy Roberts, Chief Executive of the Association of Mental Health Providers has headed up our alliance of dedicated sector leaders ensuring the needs of all adults requiring support are met.

From calling for greater support to enable care homes to safely facilitate visits during COVID-19 restrictions to lobbying for people with learning disabilities and severe mental illness to be included in the vaccine prioritisation programme, the national voice of adult social care providers in England continued to play a critical role.

As an Alliance, the CPA worked with government to provide essential PPE for free to care providers and the continuation of zero-rate VAT on PPE supplies after the initial 31 October 2020 deadline. Furthermore, working with members resulted in, on average, 99% of all care home providers reporting on the Capacity Tracker data capture initiative started in the summer of 2020.

But there still continued to be gaps in parity between NHS and social care. Government policy and guidance regularly lagged behind that of the NHS, and early access to enhanced infection prevention and control including PCR testing and PPE was limited.

Unfortunately, no “ring of steel” in the initial stages of the virus was afforded to the care sector, even though it became clear very early on vulnerable groups in society would be disproportionately affected.

The Health Foundation’s recent COVID-19 impact inquiry revealed that during the first wave of the pandemic, 40% of all UK deaths were among care home residents and 6 out of 10 people who died with COVID-19 between January and November 2020 were disabled.

Public spending by local authorities on adult social care had seen heavy cuts in previous years and together, LGA, ADASS and CPA worked to redress some of that imbalance and make public spending more comprehensive, focusing not just on health services but on care and support, and not just on national spending but support for local government too.

This was not about care providers complaining of playing ‘second fiddle’ to our NHS colleagues. It has always been about recognising our incredible workforce, and in reinforcing the outstanding quality care offered to millions who rely on social care every day. The pandemic has clearly demonstrated just how interdependent social care and the NHS are; people who receive good social care are much less likely to require NHS treatment and services, just as, to avoid lengthy stays and potential readmissions, people need essential ongoing support when they are discharged from hospital.

Pressing forward into Spring 2021, the CPA worked with other adult social care leaders including the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), Care and Support Alliance (CSA), Local Government Association (LGA), Skills for Care, Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) and Think Local Act Personal (TLAP) to offer a collective vision of what should be in a workforce strategy for the growing sector.

We have now published a strategy for the 1.5 million strong workforce driven by a shared vision.

To make this vision a reality our leaders say the following priorities must be included in any national people plan for adult social care:

  • Staff recognition, value and reward.
  • Investment in training, qualification and support.
  • Career pathways and development.
  • Building and enhancing social justice, equality, diversity and inclusion in the workforce.
  • Effective workforce planning across the whole social care workforce.
  • Expansion of the workforce in roles which are designed in coproduction with people who draw on care and support, and in roles which enable prevention, support the growth of innovative models of support.

Across our respective trade bodies and organisations we will continue to campaign for these key recommendation to be a baseline in the proposed reform agenda.  CPA and its members will be able to support the government to consider what part social care should play in our society in the coming years, and what role a workforce that is likely to be around 2 million strong by 2035 should be trained and supported by the system to meet current and future demand.

In summation of her year Kathy Roberts as CPA Chair leaves us with these thoughts “We are diverse and complex sector, and the pandemic has shown just how vital social care is for people to live a meaningful and fulfilled life.”

From 1 September 2021, Martin Green, CEO of Care England becomes the Chair of the Care Provider Alliance.

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