One year on from the Queen’s speech on social care reform
It has now been 12 months since the Queen’s speech that set out a bill to legislate for the government’s proposals on health and social care reform. And despite expecting to be introduced to these plans during the speech back in May 2021, it was to many care providers’ disappointment that the government only mentioned that proposals “will be brought forward”. Now, a year later and following a period in which industry leaders warned of more care providers going bust, cutting services or walking away from unviable contracts, it was a welcome relief to hear more concrete plans in last week’s parliamentary session.
As the sector begins to see the launch and implementation of the health and social care levy via National Insurance, there is now a clearer roadmap towards achieving the plans that were announced over a year ago. Dan Archer, the Managing Director of in-home care company, Visiting Angels, sees the decisive action being taken by the government as a significant step towards social care reform. However, this action is not without further issues, as the in-home care provider is one of many companies navigating a financially testing period.
Dan, who recently appeared on BBC news to discuss these issues, explained, “The government should be congratulated for grasping the nettle on what has been a much-delayed change in the social care sector. However, my frustration at the time of the announced changes to social care was that it was talked about as social care reform, but the reality is that virtually none of the additional funding - generated by the increase to National Insurance - has gone to social care. The government is talking about funding social care but what it’s actually doing is back-funding the NHS.
“A year on from the Queen’s speech, our sector has record shortages in supply. Only this week there has been news of 175,000 hours of unmet care needs. Local authorities are not able to pay a fair rate to many in-home care providers and, most importantly, home care workers across the UK are regularly being paid less than minimum wage. The shortage of community nursing support in many areas has meant that my care workers are now having to get involved in far more complex care and support. If funding the NHS will help community nursing, then it’s to be applauded. If not, we need more funding in social care to ensure carers are better rewarded for what’s become a harder job.”
The social care sector is crucial to the health and economy of the United Kingdom, which was emphasised by the COVID-19 pandemic. Employing over 1.5 million people and contributing to £50.3 billion to the economy1, failures in successfully reforming the industry could be devastating both to carers and those in need of high quality and attentive care. Visiting Angels’ ‘carer-centric’ approach sets it apart from other companies in the in-home care sector, with carers being placed at the heart of everything they do. But despite being a trailblazer within the industry for fairly compensating its staff, the financial impact the National Insurance levy is having on leading care brands is significant.
The social care sector may not see the benefits of the tax levy uplift for the next few years, which puts even greater pressure on companies in terms of staff retention, wellbeing and pay as they provide high-quality care to those in need. This justifies the sector-wide outrage over the last 12 months since the Queen’s speech outlined a less-than-detailed plan for social care reform.
“In the fullness of time, I recognise that our sector will receive additional funding and I’m not disputing the need for additional NHS funding,” continued Dan. “However, at this present time and as an in-home care provider, my National Insurance burden has increased. This health and social care levy means that I’m, in part, paying for the additional money that is going into the NHS which we in the social care sector are not yet benefitting from. Whilst carers are reporting high stress levels, NHS waiting lists for mental health counselling are over 12 months. It’s because of this that we’ve had to take matters into our own hands and provide access to wellbeing and talking therapies through our own programme, Angel Care.
“As an in-home care provider, I’m bound by something that our regulator, the CQC, calls a duty of candour. I have to be open and honest in my dealings. It’s a shame that the good work being attempted by government hasn’t been matched by more honesty on the reality of the process.”
The discussion continues as both care providers and local government highlight the difficulties within the sector as care workers are now facing record levels of burnout. As low wages, amongst other factors, continue to attract less and less to the career, leading care providers across the country have been left with even more responsibility towards protecting their carers from the tax levy lift that the social care sector and its staff are not yet benefitting from.
For more information, visit https://www.visiting-angels.co.uk/