Social Care in 2017 – A Year in Review
This Social Care Review aims to give an overview of events influencing the social care sector this year, from an insider’s perspective.
2017 has proved to be a very busy year in the sector, with 2018 offering few signs of being less tumultuous. From Brexit to The Budget overlooks, there are still many unanswered questions facing Social Care. Government decision-making (or lack of) has continued to shape the future of the sector heading into the new year.
Phillip Hammond has come under criticism from members of his own party for completely ‘snubbing’ Social Care in the November 2017 budget. Ex-Conservative Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell, now chair of the NHS Confederation, commented that the lack of financial assistance meant the sector was ‘unsustainable’.
It hasn’t been all doom and gloom this year though; Local Authorities have been shifting their approach to care throughout 2017. There’s an emphasis on ensuring providers offer packages that care with, rather than for, Service Users. A requirement for Person-Centred care is something we have found more prevalent in the social care tenders we write at Insequa. This positive development translates to care plans produced with the person in mind, taking into account their past and aspirations to provide a more compassionate, individual service.
A recent Channel 4 documentary, Old People’s Home for Four Year Olds showed the benefits of children helping older people in care homes. This blending of age groups is an innovation the sector has paid attention to, after seeing the positive outcomes of such experiments. Other new schemes have seen university students sharing private homes with elderly people, offering them support and company whilst benefitting from free accommodation. Reciprocal models like these have been gaining traction, with growing support for optimising community integration for Service Users in these ways. And whilst Care BnB (private homes paid to accommodate hospital referrals/discharges) seemed a step too far for many, it’s an indication of a willingness to accept new ideas are needed to fix this old problem.
Social Care providers have been given a year to identify how much money is owed to sleep-in carers in outstanding wages. The Government has advised all Social Care employers to join the Social Care Compliance Scheme. The Government took the measure of delaying the process by a year, and setting the deadline for arrears for March 2019. Members of the sector have voiced the opinion that while this buys some time, the Government has largely avoided the issue of how employers are expected to pay the significant £400m bill that has been laid at their door. This sounds bleak for care providers, but every cloud has a silver lining and this chunk of money is intended to go to Care Workers as reparation for their work, and may help in recruiting much-needed personnel to this sector.
Another welcome development in the area of staffing has been the continued move away from the use of Zero-Hours contracts, which contributes towards a more secure working environment for Care Workers.
Any social care review of the year has to acknowledge the Brexit-factor. The Government has declared its intention for Britain to leave the European Union on March 29th, 2019. Brexit has been met with a huge amount of uncertainty within the British economy as a whole, and Health and Social Care hasn’t escaped the negative repercussions of this ambiguity.
Huge numbers of EU nationals in all sectors are returning to Europe to work. Health and Social Care is particularly affected by this trend as EU nationals make up 7% of the adult social care workforce (90,000) in England, with the highest proportion in London (13%), the south east (10%) and the east of England (8%), according to figures published by Skills for Care.
Martin Green, Chief Executive of Care England, believes the problem of EU nationals leaving to be “quite significant”.
This situation is lent further urgency with the combination of an aging population in the U.K. and a recruitment crisis in the care sector. According to recruitment site REED, job advertisements in the industry leaped 64% from September 2016 to the same month this year.
All these factors have combined to make 2017 a year of continued uncertainty for social care in the UK. Looking ahead to 2018, further challenges will present themselves. Care providers will need to be agile and responsive to inevitable developments, meeting these with innovative, evolutionary care models. At Insequa, as specialist tender writers for social care, we get to see first-hand how hard care providers work to make a success of the support they deliver – and in increasingly stretched conditions, they deserve recognition for this.