Extra £500m for social care a ‘sticking plaster’, warn sector leaders

Hospital discharge funding does not address fundamental issues of staffing shortages, unmet need and impact of cost of living crisis, say councils, providers and charities

Budget folder and calculator
Photo: DOC RABE Media/Adobe Stock

The government’s £500m injection of cash into adult social care this winter is a mere “sticking plaster” for the sector’s underlying problems, leaders have warned.

The package, designed to speed up hospital discharges by increasing the availability of social care, and to boost the supply of care staff, was broadly welcomed by councils, providers, think-tanks and charities.

However, they said it was insufficient to tackle staff shortages, unmet needs for care and the impact of the cost of living crisis on the sector.

52% rise in vacancies

Vacancies in adult social care rose by 52% in 2021-22, driven by factors including increased competition from the NHS, as well as sectors such as retail, burnout from working through the pandemic and a reduced supply of staff from Europe post-Brexit.

Responding to last week’s announcement, Homecare Association chief executive Dr Jane Townson said: “Ultimately it is the unfavourable pay and terms and conditions of employment experienced by the workforce that has led to a shortage of homecare workers, resulting in inadequate homecare capacity.

Without long-term investment in homecare, this short-term funding, though welcome, will be just another sticking plaster that won’t address underlying problems.”

Age UK charity director Caroline Abrahams said it had wanted to see the government announce an immediate pay rise for care staff last week.

Immediate pay rise for care staff needed – charity

“Without it we remain concerned that care staff will continue to walk away, attracted by appreciably better terms and conditions in other sectors,” she added. “Care workers are the bedrock of social care and you simply can’t provide decent care to the growing numbers of people of all ages who need it unless you have enough of them.”

This sentiment was echoed by Sally Warren, director of policy at think-tank the King’s Fund and a former social care civil servant.

A short-term, short-notice pot of cash is not going to help social care services to address unmet need, improve quality of care, or recruit and retain more staff.”

Warren added: “Social care providers are carrying approximately 165,000 vacancies, and analysis by The King’s Fund shows that nearly 400,000 care workers would be better paid working in most supermarkets.”

Meanwhile, local authority leaders pointed to the inadequancy of the funding to meet the wider pressures they faced in adult social care, including because of the cost of living crisis.

Sarah McClinton

Sarah McClinton, ADASS president from 2022-23

Association of Directors of Adult Social Services president Sarah McClinton said the funding would go some way to stabilising vital care and support ahead of what promises to be one of the most difficult winters that any of us have ever faced”.

“However, it risks becoming another missed opportunity if it is not quickly followed by a long-term investment plan for adult social care to reduce unmet, under met and wrongly met need,” she added.

“We need multi-year funding that enables us to make better longer-term decisions that increase care and support at home, prioritise recovery and reablement, uplift carers’ pay, and support unpaid carers.”

Inflation driving £3.7bn rise in costs

The County Councils Network also said the £500m fell  said it had estimated that adult social care would need an additional £3.7bn in 2023 over 2021 funding levels to stand still, because of inflation, wage pressures and increasing demand.

CCN chair Tim Oliver said while the £500m would assist with discharges, it would not help with the 500,000 people directors report are waiting for assessments, care packages or reviews, or care worker vacancies.

Oliver also pointed to sector-wide fears that the government had significantly underestimated the costs of next year’s adult social care funding reforms. These comprise the introduction of an £86,000 cap on personal care costs, a more generous means-test and the right for self-funders to access care home placements at council rates, which are traditionally lower than those levied on private payers.

The £3.6bn allocated to the reforms – and a related policy of ensuring councils pay providers a fair cost of care – was due to be financed by a 1.25 percentage point rise in national insurance contributions and dividend taxes that came into force in April.

Provider body backs national insurance reversal

The government scrapped the tax increases last week in its so-called mini-budget, but confirmed that the estimated £13bn a year they were due to raise per year would still be allocated to health and social care as planned.

This was welcomed by provider umbrella body Care England, who said social care services would have faced significant additional costs as a result of increased employer and employee national insurance contributions.

“The approximated impact upon the sector, for both employers and employees, was circa £600m per annum,”  said chief executive Martin Green. “This was at odds with the NHS where employer contributions were being recompensed by government. This indeed is a welcome step to rebalancing the funding between health and social care.”

Almost all of the £13bn in funding has gone to the NHS this year, with a bigger proportion going to social care in 2023-24 and 2024-25, but, during this year’s Tory leadership content, Liz Truss backed reallocating money from NHS to social care.

Green joined McClinton in calling for this to happen, adding: “What is vital now is for a greater proportion of the £13bn… to be diverted directly to adult social care providers.”


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2 Responses to Extra £500m for social care a ‘sticking plaster’, warn sector leaders

  1. Julie Lineham September 28, 2022 at 9:41 am #

    I usually do not comment on such articles but I have experience both professionally as I currently work in adult care, and personally because I have a close family member who is in receipt of a care package, where there is no consistency in carers, where we have had safeguarding issues, medication errors; I feel I much write something.

    Social care has systematically been under funded for well over 10 years and now they expect this ‘extra’ cash to magically cure the winter pressures. Until terms and conditions of employment within the field of social care are improved and comparable with the health service, or lets face with shop jobs, we will continue to see year in year out reduction in staff, and until we have all social care vacancies filled this is but a plaster on an arterial bleed . People do not want to go into social care and just get paid the minimum wage, when you can go the local Lidl store by me for nearly £14 per hour plus staff discount on their shop. Our front line care staff are working with our most vulnerable people in the community or supporting in care homes, when will government recognise the true worth of a good social care system and fund it as it should be, instead of telling us how inadequate we are.


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