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14 Apr 2023

Hot Take: No time for rowing back on reform

Hot Take: No time for rowing back on reform

With many care homes on the brink of collapse due to staffing shortages and sky high costs, CT editor-in-chief Lee Peart argues this is no time for the government to renege on reforms.

It’s almost four years since newly elected Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to ‘fix social care’.

Little progress has been made since on delivering these reforms in the intervening turbulent years in which we have seen two PMs come and go.

The government delivered its 10-year vision for social care in its white paper in December 2021 in which is pledged to invest “at least £500 million over the next three years to begin to transform the way we support the social care workforce”.

There was widespread dismay when the DHSC announced this month that it was halving workforce investment to £250 million despite the sector’s current 165,000 vacancies as the government held back £600 million from £1.7 billion of reform funding.

The DHSC has given no timeline on when the sector will see the remainder of the money.  

In his Autumn Budget last year, chancellor Jeremy Hunt also confirmed that social care reforms, including a £86,000 cap on care costs and establishing a fair cost of care that were scheduled to kick in October 2023, would be delayed by two years as he prioritised cleaning up the economic mess caused by the disastrous three-month premiership of Liz Truss.

Meanwhile, the government has yet to explain how it will fund a £2.3 billion hole identified in the cost of care exercise carried out by local authorities this year in preparation for the reforms.

All this delay and uncertainty leaves care home providers with a weary sense of déjà vu as urgently needed reform is once again kicked down the road.

There appears little chance of further progress until after the next general election which could take place as soon as 2024.

Left with an ongoing vacuum in government leadership, care homes have had to take matters into their own hands by raising wages and offering new incentives to recognise the value of social care staff.

With margins tight due to increasing cost pressures there is only so much providers can do, however, without greater funding from local authorities.

With so many care homes on the brink of collapse due to staffing shortages and sky high energy costs this is no time for the government to be rowing back on reform.

We need action now to provide a sustainable future for social care, including a competitive national minimum wage for care staff and a national minimum fee rate for care homes which reflects the cost of care.


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