Government announces 7 pillars of social care
The 7 key principles outlined in Hunt’s manifesto are:
1. quality and safety embedded in service provision
2. whole-person integrated care with the NHS and social care systems operating as one
3. the highest possible control given to those receiving support
4. a valued workforce
5. better practical support for families and carers
6. a sustainable funding model for social care supported by a diverse, vibrant and stable market
7. greater security for all – including those born or developing a care need early in life and for those entering old age who do not know what their future care needs may be.
Mr Hunt said that innovation, including making the most of new technology, would be central to the success of the reforms, stating “we will not succeed unless the systems we establish embrace the changes in technology and medicine that are profoundly reshaping our world.”
He went on to say “By reforming the system in line with these principles everyone – whatever their age – can be confident in our care and support system. Confident that they will be in control, confident that they will have quality care and confident that wider society will support them.”
Referring to CQC’s ‘mum test’, quality of services will be top of the agenda, whatever a person’s age or needs. Whole-person care seeks to integrate health and social care services, to streamline connections between primary healthcare and social care provision. Although the outward facing principle is intended to be for the benefit of service users, it is also clear that a more joined-up approach will increase efficiencies and save costs across the sector.
Pilot schemes were announced to consider ‘personal health budgets’ (PHBs) aimed at giving back control to service users alongside plans to build on the recent Competition and Markets Authority review of consumer contracts.
It was also recognised that the social care workforce, society’s “modern day heroes” need to be championed and care work promoted as a career of choice. The NHS 10 year workforce strategy will now encompass the social care workforce and more support will be given to voluntary carers.
Although these principles indicate that the Government is at last making social care reform a priority, how these reforms and the ongoing provision of services will be funded is arguably the most important issue of all.
Mr Hunt’s speech did not specifically address how the funding gap would be addressed, but indicated that a tax-funded system was not on the agenda. He insisted that an element of personal responsibility would stay, so that funding would be based on a “partnership between the state and individuals”. As well as a cap, underwritten by the Government, the Green Paper is also likely to propose a saving or insurance scheme for young people to encourage them to make provision for their care in the future and working pensioners being required to pay National Insurance.
What does this mean for providers?
Despite being clear that the Green Paper will need to lead to action and ‘jump start’ the debate on funding, Hunt acknowledges that it will follow other reform programmes which have stalled in the past.
It is clear that all parties involved in the sector, from providers and their employees to service users and their families will need the Government to do more than just pay lip service to these principles to make good on its promises for sustainable reform. The Local Government Alliance has called for a down-payment on the Green Paper, seeking an injection of funds into the system to relieve funding pressures until the Green Paper reforms come into effect and bring in new resources.
Unless and until this happens, providers will continue to come under pressure to provide high quality services under the increasingly scrutinous eye of CQC.