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Social care cuts tells workforce they're 'half as valuable', says Christian charity

by Heather Preston

The head of a Christian charity has encouraged the Church to step in and support those working in social care, following "disappointing" government funding cuts to the sector.

In 2021 ministers promised at least £500 million to develop the sector’s workforce over three years, investing in training spots and technology.

On Tuesday, the Department of Health and Social Care confirmed this figure will now be £250 million.

Social care minister Helen Whately said the package "focuses on recognising care with the status it deserves".

Stephen Hammersley is Chief Executive Officer of Pilgrims' Friend Society and Chair of Faith in Later Life.

He tells Premier that cutting funding by 50 per cent doesn't send an encouraging message to social care staff.

"It is cutting an increase that was planned - so there is still some new money coming into the equipping of the workforce, so there's a little bit of good news - it's just that the good news is half as good as it was just over a year ago when this was first announced.

"And given that this is supposed to be a major step in the government and society recognising the value of the work that carers do, it's really, really disappointing that the government appears to be saying, workers in the care sector are half as valuable as we thought they were just over a year ago."

The December 2021 People at the Heart of Care White Paper outlines various measures to develop the social care workforce in England, including the creation of Care Certificate qualifications, funding for hundreds of thousands of training places and plans to accelerate the digitising of social care records and utilise smart technology and sensors.

A report published in March by trade organisation Care England and learning disability charity HFT warned that the adult social care sector is “on the precipice” as it battles rising costs and staff recruitment shortages.

A number of charities have criticised the new plans, with Learning disability charity Mencap calling it an "insult" to the sector.

Hammersley says halving the funding means organisations will have to use more of their charitable resources.

“We need many, many more people to work in care, there are a significant numbers of vacancies. 165,000, is the latest estimate, which amounts to about one in 10 places being unfilled.

“Pay needs to be decent, if we're going to attract in reasonable numbers of people, but also there needs to be great training, so that people feel that they're really contributing to what they're doing.

“From our point of view, as a medium sized care operator, it means that we will have to be putting in more of our charitable resources into the training, equipping more staff than perhaps otherwise we might have had to do to keep the quality of what we do really high.

“It means we're not going to be able to do as much other work elsewhere, as we’d otherwise have done. So there's lots of knock on consequences from this announcement."

The original package set out various amounts of money for adult social care reform, including £25 million to support unpaid carers and £300 million to integrate housing into local health and care strategies - neither of which were mentioned in Tuesday's announcement.

Hammersley suggests the Church has a role to play in supporting carers:

“Anybody who works in care whether it's paid or unpaid - need to know that their work is valued. Particularly if they're unpaid, they need to have opportunities for respite, to recoup, to refresh. And I think that's where all of us in churches need to be on the lookout for those who have caring responsibilities.

“There's lots of little acts of kindness, offering an hour or two of help. There's lots we could all do to help make care something that we do together, not just the state doing for us.”

According to the Press Association, the Government will set out support for unpaid workers "in due course" and has insisted no funding for the adult social care sector has been removed or re-allocated to the NHS, and that up to £600 million mentioned in the white paper has "not yet been allocated" but will be targeted on measures "that will have the most impact" over the next two years.

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