Action is needed on pay, conditions and training to support the people providing vital care services.
In his first major speech since being appointed to the role, Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid told the LGA’s virtual annual conference that the in-tray he faces is the biggest of the five departments he has led in government.
He said putting social care on a sustainable footing was one of the main tasks he would be working on, with councils, in the months ahead.
Successive governments of different political colours have promised to secure the future of care and support, all while pressures have continued to increase and resources have become more stretched.
The need for reform, further exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19, is urgent.
It is also now 10 years since the publication of the Dilnot report, which recommended changes to how we fund and pay for social care, including a cap on individual care costs.
However, no reform programme can be coherent and successful without addressing the needs of the people who provide our vital services.
Our dedicated and committed 1.5 million care workers have been on the frontline throughout the pandemic and have already endured so much, including heartbreak and loss of their own.
One of the legacies of the pandemic must be action to tackle the huge recruitment and retention crisis, with more than 100,000 vacancies, as well as action on pay, conditions, professionalisation, skills and training.
The LGA, along with other social care leaders – including the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, The Care Provider Alliance, Skills for Care, Social Care Institute for Excellence, and Think Local Act Personal – have come together to offer a collective vision of what should be in a future workforce strategy as part of wider social care reforms.
“Social care can play an integral part in building back better”
Clear priorities include staff recognition, value and reward; investment in training, qualification and support, career pathways and development; and enhancing social justice, equality, diversity and inclusion.
This should also be aided by effective planning across the whole social care workforce and an expansion of roles designed with the help of people who draw on care and support, which enable prevention and underpin the growth of innovative models of support.
These priorities, which have been developed by representatives of those who use care and support services, employers and workers, have been based on our shared understanding of the key workforce challenges that must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
Any proposals for reform need to consider what part social care should play in our society in the coming years, and what role a workforce – which is likely to be about two million strong by 2035 – should have to meet current and future demand.
It is vital that we help care staff be the best they can be as part of a valued workforce, fit for the future, by matching people’s skills and ambitions with the aspirations of those who need care and support.
This vision should form a central, positive part of a long-term sustainable funding solution for care and support services.
Social care is not just valuable in its own right. It can play an integral part in building back better from the pandemic, contributing to flourishing and connected communities where people are able to live the lives they want to lead.