Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Take Care Before Wielding the Knife

An interesting piece of news from the National Skills Academy for Social Care (https://www.nsasocialcare.co.uk/news/whitehall-to-consider-protecting-social-care?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter) which suggests that the treasury are looking at further ways of cutting the social care budget, including curbing care provider fees.

Now the reality is that care providers have, in general, had lower than inflation increases in fees since at least 2008, well before the current financial crisis really kicked and, the bottom line is, the constant reduction in real terms of care fees impacts on the quality of care that providers can deliver.

Costs have spiralled, even if social care workers pay has be held back the costs of heating premises etc has risen sharply as have food prices and other costs.

While we have to accept the implementation of austerity measures handed to us the fact is further cutting back on care provider costs affects the lives of those who need care services.

While providers focus on meeting increasing costs and maintaining the level of care they provide there are inevitably areas that have to be cut back, invariably training of staff is one of those areas and because of this it means less well trained staff are providing direct care services and because they are less well trained it means the level of service will drop.

This is, of course, exacerbated by the fact that much of the funding for care training has almost completely disappeared. Where once NVQs for workers of all ages were funded, now only under 24s generally get free training yet many of those coming into care are older, usually returning to work rather than as a first job, which means the £1000 plus cost of a formal qualification is beyond the realms of realistic costs for many and, unfortunately, because it is no longer a requirement under the current standards it means many employers will not see the point of spending that amount out.

The real issue that needs to be tackled right now is not how we can save money but how we can ensure the safety and dignity of those who need social care services, yes we need to ensure people can stay in their own home as long as possible but this should not solely be based on saving money. Those who provide care in a person’s home still need to be adequately trained and given time to sufficiently care for the individuals rather than be forced into excruciatingly tight time slots which do little for helping the individual.

There are, undoubtedly, savings that can be made yet the Government must proceed with caution to ensure the well-being of those who need care services. Cutting care provider fees could drive some providers out of business, if that happens then the Government will find themselves actually increasing social care costs as they will have to fill the gap. The reason most care is provided by private companies is because it was felt this was a cheaper option than local authority provided care by driving providers out of the market it is probable that local authority provision will have to increase.

Social care in the U.K. is increasingly complicated, with control from Whitehall being disseminated through local authorities while actual provision is delivered by private companies who receive payment for services through many different channels, i.e. local authorities, the NHS, private funding or a combination of those.

If we want to save money let’s start by reducing some of this bureaucracy rather than targeting those who provide front line care in order to minimise the impact of cuts on those who actually need care services.