Home » Government ‘to cut £250m from social care workforce funding’ in England

Government ‘to cut £250m from social care workforce funding’ in England

Ministers are poised to cut £250m from investment in the social care workforce in England, it has been reported, in a move that providers say could set back care “for years to come”.

With more than 165,000 care worker jobs vacant, and low pay driving staff to quit for better wages in retail and hospitality, care providers and councils have been clamouring for investment in recruitment and retention. Inadequate staffing levels are frequently noted as a cause of neglect and poor care by the Care Quality Commission.

However, according to the Health Service Journal (subscription), the government is poised to water down a promise it made in the December 2021 social care white paper to dedicate £500m to “investment in knowledge, skills, health and wellbeing, and recruitment policies [that] will improve social care as a long-term career choice”. This amount could be cut to £250m.

A further £300m plan “to integrate housing into local health and care strategies with a focus on increasing the range of new supported housing options available” could also be axed, it was reported.

The Department of Health and Social Care did not deny the report. A spokesperson said it did not comment on leaks and added: “The government remains committed to the 10-year vision set out in the People at the Heart of Care white paper and have made good progress on implementing it, including by boosting workforce capacity, digitisation, improving oversight and enhancing the use of data. We will soon publish a plan for adult social care system reform, setting out how we will build on this progress over the next two years.”

One care leader, who said she believed the report was accurate, described the prospect of the cut as “hugely disappointing”.

“This is right at the time the sector continues to struggle with recruitment and retention,” said Nadra Ahmed, the executive chair of the National Care Association, which represents independent providers. “If this money has been taken out, it is shortsighted. There could be other ways to utilise this fund if they spoke to the sector.”

Average wages for care workers have recently been as low as £9.66 an hour, according to Skills for Care, a government-funded charity. They must increase in April when the “national living wage” rises to £10.42 an hour, an almost 10% increase, which has not been matched by increases in council grants to pay for care beds, creating a fresh squeeze on the finances of care providers.

Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England, said: “We need that £500m to kickstart a much more strategic approach to workforce development. If it has been cut, it will set back social care for many years to come.

“People who receive services suffer because if we can’t make social care an attractive place to develop careers, we will see a reduction in services and the chronic situation many people are in where they only get a service when in crisis will get even worse. It will also put extra pressure on the NHS.”

Ministers are expected to announce a wider set of policies to boost the social care workforce in the coming weeks.

This month, Deborah Sturdy, the chief nurse for adult social care, joined speakers including Ed Balls, the former education secretary who worked in a care home for a TV documentary, and the shadow care minister, Liz Kendall, at a conference of teenagers to try to boost their interest in caring as a career.

Skills for Care has predicted that the UK may need an extra 480,000 workers in social care by 2035 to keep pace with demand. Meanwhile, 430,000 carers could be lost in the next 10 years if those aged 55 and over decide to retire.

Kendall said: “With a crisis in social care and the workforce on its knees, we need a real plan for change, not a series of broken promises. Labour will tackle record vacancies through a new deal for care workers, and fundamentally shift the focus of health and care to prevention and early intervention, so that more people can be cared for in their own home, which is where they want to be.”