Skills for Care: training budget request sparks debate

Skills for Care’s bid to wrest control of training funds from councils for the independent sector has sparked controversy. Amy Taylor reports on reactions from across social care

Last week, social care workforce development body Skills for Care caused a stir by demanding control of more than £100m allocated to local authorities for training in order to give it to the independent sector.

The body claimed the move was necessary because English councils were not spending enough of the money they were given for training on the sector.

Three-quarters of the social care workforce are employed by the voluntary and private sectors according to government estimates. But a survey last year found only one-third of the £147.5m allocated for training in 2006-7 was set to be spent on independent organisations. Skills for Care chair Donald Hoodless said the independent sector was missing out on millions. If the money was split in proportion the sector would receive a budget worth £110m.

The idea has divided the sector with providers supportive of the proposal and local government leaders arguing that only councils are in a position to know the training needs of their local areas.

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Feedback from the profession…

English Community Care Association chief executive Martin Green:

“I would welcome the transfer of money from local authorities because they have proved themselves incapable of delivering funding to the independent sector in a way that is both transparent and easy to access.”

Local Government Association workforce planning consultant Vic Citarella:

“We would strongly resist any such move. There is a belief that money doesn’t reach the private and voluntary sector. Actually, it reaches it in a number of different forms and adding it up as cash [is incorrect] when councils have got partnership arrangements with Skills for Care and the Learning and Skills Council. “Where a council provides good outcomes in social care and they feel the need to spend money on social care [instead of on training for the independent sector] that’s their discretion.”

Department of Health director general for social care David Behan:

“At this time, we have no plans to move this grant from local authorities to Skills for Care. Local authorities have a leadership role to play in their communities and that includes a responsibility to ensure that the social care workforce within an area has access to training and development.”

John Wallace, national treasurer of Learn to Care, which represents social care trainers:

“I don’t think Skills for Care has the infrastructure to manage it. Almost all of the services are commissioned by the local authorities. They are the ones that are able to assess [the training needs of) their areas closely. “The biggest problem is the capacity of the [private] providers and the voluntary sector to release staff for training.”

National Care Forum executive director Des Kelly:

“On the surface it looks attractive because very little of the money gets to the service providers. But providing money for training is only part of the situation. If you release a worker to go on training you have still got to replace them. One of the agreements providers want put in place is that backfill costs need to be factored into that.”

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   Amy Taylor

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