The government must invest urgently in training for social workers to ensure councils have sufficient competent practitioners to implement changes to adult care law from April 2015.
That was the message from London Councils – the body representing the capital’s boroughs – in its response to the government’s consultation on funding reforms contained within the bill.
Councils would need “additional experienced staff” to cope with a large increase in case numbers on the back of the bill’s funding changes, particularly the £72,000 ‘cap’ on the reasonable care costs incurred by individuals.
To qualify for the cap, self-funders would need to approach their council for an assessment, with those with eligible needs given an “independent personal budget” setting out what their councils would spend on meeting their needs if it were doing so; this sum would accumulate in a “care account” until the cap is reached.
This means councils must carry out hundreds of thousands of extra assessments of people wanting to be considered for the cap in the run-up to, and soon after, the implementation of the funding changes, in April 2016.
In their response to the consultation, the Local Government Association and Association of Directors of Adult Social Services said this may have to be managing by outsourcing responsibility for lower-level assessments to providers and third sector bodies.
However, London Councils said at least part of the solution would have to be councils having to take on “additional experienced staff”, in a context where authorities have had to make “significant budget cuts and staff reductions”.
“We believe that there is a need for the government/skills sector to be investing in increased training so that by 2016 the workforce will be large enough to handle the new system,” said London Councils.
It said the government needed to start investing in social work training “urgently” so that the workforce is large enough to handle the new system by 2016.
However, as well as needing extra staff, it said existing staff would need to be retrained in the practice and system reforms that the legislation will initiate.
These include new frameworks for assessment and eligibility for service users and carers that will require practitioners to provide people who do not meet thresholds with written advice on managing their needs, and support those that do meet criteria to make greater use of community networks and universal services.
London Councils said the government should also fund councils to meet this training gap, potentially on a regional basis to provide economies of scale.