Age UK Comment in response to CQC - State of Care Report Increased stability in social care and real collaboration across health and care key to mitigating risk of “tsunami of unmet need”
Published on 22 October 2021 12:03 AM
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said:
"This report shouts out the clearest possible warning that the basic foundations of social care - the workforce and funding - are now looking so rocky that urgent Government action is required on both to keep the system viable. Care workers need better reasons to stay in the job when retail and hospitality now offer much more attractive pay and conditions, and councils need a funding package from the Chancellor's Spending Review next week that enables them to build more care capacity in their localities over the next few years, not further reduce it, as is currently on the cards, given their alarming budget shortfalls.
"Everyone knew that there were too many vacancies in the care workforce and grossly insufficient Government funding for care before the pandemic arrived, but the extra pressures of the last eighteen months have made both problems considerably worse; workers and managers are very tired, there are big backlogs of people in need of care waiting even to be assessed, and much of the demand for care from older and disabled people held back by fear of the virus is now well and truly back. One of the consequences is that older people are getting stuck in hospital again when they are medically fit to be discharged, simply because there is not enough care to support them when they get home. This is deeply ominous for the NHS, with the worst of winter yet to come, as well as miserable and counterproductive for any older person concerned.
"We support the CQC's recommendations to bring more stability to the social care system, especially their focus on the importance of professionalising the care workforce, with registration one of a number of measures required to give our talented care staff a proper career framework and terms and conditions commensurate with the skills needed to do the job. In addition, care workers deserve more money in their pockets now and we look to our Government in Westminster to provide it - their counterparts in other parts of the UK having already done so months ago.
"We also agree with the CQC about the potential of 'real' collaboration across health and care to help ensure older and disabled people get the support they need. However, integration is not a 'get out of jail free' card and, as well as taking time to develop and deliver, it will not make much difference for as long as social care is hobbled by such grotesque shortages of staff and funding as we see today."
"Social care was never going to collapse all in one go, like a pack of cards, but this CQC report identifies some symptoms of the gradual disintegration that was always the more likely scenario: care home providers giving up on being able to staff all their services so mothballing some provision, de-registering as nursing homes or reluctantly handing back local authority contracts they can no longer fulfil. For older and disabled people the consequences can be very real and severe: an inability to find any care at all, at any price in their area; more erratic, unreliable provision; and families left with no choice but to step in, regardless of their other commitments, to try to plug the gaps. Those without families or other support networks meanwhile are in an increasingly precarious position.
"It's less than two months since the Prime Minister announced his package of social care reforms, but when you read this CQC report that feels like a parallel universe. However laudable the Government's aim of increasing protection against the risk of facing sky high care bills in future years may be, the reality in the here and now is that social care is in serious trouble and needs a big injection of extra cash - several billion more just to stand still. All eyes on Chancellor Rishi Sunak next Wednesday to see if he delivers the comprehensive package of extra resources this CQC report demonstrates social care desperately requires."