The National Skills Academy for Social Care is bringing forward plans to become self-funding through employer membership fees in order to safeguard its future.
The academy was launched in October 2009 as a sector-led body to drive up leadership, commissioning and training standards and boost the profile of adult social care in England.
It received a share of £30m in start-up funding from the Skills Funding Agency last year and £3m from the Department of Health for 2010-11, and was expected to become self-sufficient by the end of 2012.
But this has been accelerated due to the current economic climate, said chief executive Liz McSheehy.
Questions were raised about the future of social care workforce bodies after the government announced that the General Social Care Council will be abolished in 2012 – a decision that was largely driven by financial concerns, care minister Paul Burstow revealed earlier this month.
But, speaking to Community Care ahead of the academy’s first anniversary, McSheehy pointed out that the academy always intended to become independent of government.
“The move toward the academy becoming self-sufficient sooner than originally planned is simply a realistic reflection of the economic climate and the focus on reducing the deficit,” she said.
As a result, the academy has intensified its focus on developing a membership programme for employers. It will market-test membership fees over the coming months, McSheehy said, to ensure they are “affordable and represent good value for money”.
“We’re very aware of the budgetary pressures and constraints on people working in social care,” she added.
In the meantime, the academy will continue to develop its programmes of leadership and management training for graduates, frontline managers and directors.
McSheehy dismissed claims made in the former government’s delivery chain review last year that there was a “major overlap” between the academy and Skills for Care.
“We have specific remits,” she said, adding that social care is a “huge sector”. However, she also admitted the academy is still in its honeymoon period: “We have to continue making sure we deliver. At a time which is really strained financially for employers, they’re not going to wish to spend any spare money they have on things that are not important.”
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