Crisis Point

Do social care complexities cast doubt on the effectiveness of the government’s latest funding? Jennifer Johnston, Associate at BLM, investigates.

In September the Government announced a manifesto-breaking tax increase that would fund social care reforms and solve the NHS backlog caused by COVID-19. Across social care, the announcement of extra funding has met a positive reaction, with many hoping it will help to solve the numerous problems that have been exacerbated by the pandemic and have now reached a

critical point. With a death toll now in excess of over 40,000 residents

according to the ONS the Government’s poor handling of care homes throughout the pandemic is well documented and scrutiny over the future of social care has intensified. Given its reputation to date, many have approached the Prime Minister’s announcement with caution, raising questions of how the investment will be effectively utilised, especially over issues that cannot be solved solely through increases in funding.

In his statement to the House of Commons, the Prime Minister referred to the pandemic as having highlighted problems in social care, saying that at the outset of the pandemic there were 30,000 patients occupying hospital beds that could have been better cared for elsewhere. However, we have consistently seen that the process of discharging a patient from a healthcare to a social care setting is very complex, with many factors affecting the speed at which they can be discharged from hospital, not just the amount of funding available.

That said, the reality is that in the first three years, most of the funds raised by this tax increase will be used to support

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the NHS. Of the £36bn available in the next three years, only £5.3bn will be invested in social care – less than 15%. Although the Government has promised to spend the majority of the funding on social care aſter the NHS backlog has cleared in three years, there are no clear parameters set to determine what constitutes a ‘clear backlog’ or guarantees it will happen.

“The announcement does not address that almost

150,000 employees have left the industry during COVID-19.”

Even with funding, there are a multitude of problems in social care that will each require a careful and considered approach. The adequacy and cost of care provided to those in need is perhaps the best-documented challenge, but there also needs to be support and attention given to the sector’s workforce. Members of staff have dealt with a demanding and emotionally turbulent year on the frontline. The Government’s announcement of a new tax rise does not centre heavily on plans to alleviate the burnout experienced by staff, and also does not adequately address the fact that almost 150,000 employees have leſt the industry during COVID-19; the impact of Brexit on the availability of foreign care workers has only exacerbated these staff shortages. The Government’s acknowledgement of the impact of Brexit is not mentioned once in their Build Back Better report; whether this is naivety or wilful disregard is up for debate. A portion of the funding raised from the increase of National Insurance Contributions (NIC) must be directed towards filling this staff shortage if

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