To all readers of my blogs Happy New Year and all the very best for 2020.
I guess the vast majority of people who work in the social care industry will kickstart the New Year with a feeling of Déjà vu. The election has come and gone. The content of the Queens Speech has been laid before us, and yet there is still no word about a strategy on the future of social care.
Is it about time that politicians grasped the nettle and recognised that by simply providing an allocation of funding will in itself not solve the problems of social care. The new conservative government with a large majority are now in a position to tackle the problem. Nor is it acceptable to construct a divisionary tactic such as seeking a cross party consensus. Laudable, but as history shows us that there is little evidence that the other parties will sign up to any such initiative.
While all this is going on the NHS will not be able to cope with so many people requiring care, taking up bed space that could be put to better use for people requiring treatment, and the care element provided by community services. Until a solution is found that takes account of these issues then both the NHS and social care services will continue to struggle.
New challenges facing social care services
The New Year brings with it new challenges for providers of social care services. The uncertainty surrounding Brexit may have abated somewhat, but we are a long way off achieving a trade deal and the terms of agreement when we finally leave the EU. Until such time that we know in which direction we will be going, there will be continuing anxiety surrounding the recruitment of staff. We are given to understand that the government intends to adopt an Australian points system for people who wish to work in the UK. What we don’t know is, what priority will be given to migrant workers seeking employment in social care services.
Migrant workers make up a substantial number of workers employed in the social care sector. In 2018 Skills for Care estimated that there were 95,000 workers from the EU and 127,000 from non-european counties.
Increase in minimum wage
The Government’s announcement that the minimum wage for over 25s is to be increased from £8.21 to £8.72 will force many providers to increase the charges for their services if they are to continue in business. Nor will it help if local authorities continue to drive down costs for contracted services. The increase in wages for staff in social care is to be welcomed for the work they do, which for far too long has been undervalued.
Any increase in wages will always have the greatest impact on the smaller providers where margins are at there lowest. It may also impact on the minds of those potential providers who are considering starting up domiciliary care services. It seems to me that any future strategy for social care should include some incentivisation that will encourage new providers into the sector.
The start of the New Year has not seen forthcoming a new strategy for social care. If anything, there seems to be no clear thinking on behalf of the Government on the way forward, certainly not in the short term. Until a strategy is delivered that contains a clear direction of the respective treatment roles of the NHS and the caring role of social care, both sectors will continue to struggle, and people denied the treatment and care they need.
Social care services will face new challenges in 2020 not least the impact of rising wages and in the longer term a new migration system which will undoubtably have a huge bearing on staff recruitment.
Albert Cook Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy