The chief executive of United Kingdom Homecare Association has called for a clear strategy for home care as part of a potential 10-year plan for the social care sector.
Giving evidence to the Health and Social Care Committee yesterday on lessons learned from the coronavirus pandemic, Dr Jane Townson said that “at an absolute minimum” there needs to be a workforce strategy and a national minimum fee rate for home care.
“In Norway, they have made a decision to enable as many people as possible to live well and safely at home, so let’s start by having a vision,” she said.
“We need to have a national mandated minimum fee rate for home care so that, as an absolute minimum, providers can pay the national legal minimum wage. We shouldn’t even be having to ask for that.
She added: “One and a half million people work in the social care sector – that’s more than in the NHS. The NHS has a People Plan, we have nothing so far for social care. But the tasks and the skills and the competencies that [care workers] have to perform are really complex, and now digital has been thrown into the mix as well, and people’s needs are more complex. So we need to understand what skills, what competencies, what training, what standards we need and then make it possible to deliver those.”
Following the discussion, Chair of the Committee, Jeremy Hunt, reiterated the need for a 10-year plan for social care in an interview with Sky News.
He said the long-term structural weakness of the social care sector, which “has always been a Cinderella service”, has not been addressed despite a greater recognition of the workforce.
“The big takeaway from this is that we have to have a 10-year plan – a workforce plan for the social care – just as we have had for some time for the NHS.”
Hunt, the former Health Secretary, has previously accused Philip Hammond of blocking a 10-year plan for social care during his time as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
He said in January that the plan was axed on cost grounds, adding: “The political pressure is never as great for social care funding but the reality is additional NHS funding will be wasted if we don’t sort out social care.”
Speaking to Sky News yesterday, Hunt said that if there was ever a time to “grapple with the issues” facing the social care sector, its “going to be in the year of the pandemic”.
He added: “We’ve seen just how brave and selfless and dedicated those people are working in care homes and going round door to door looking after people in their own homes. They are heroes, and this has to be the year that we recognise that.”