Homecare Association responds to the appointment of Steve Barclay MP as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
The Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP was appointed Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.
The Homecare Association’s CEO, Dr Jane Townson, said:
The Homecare Association congratulates the Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP on his appointment as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and looks forward to engaging constructively with him.
Social care and health services are interdependent, together representing 10% of GDP, and we urge the new Secretary of State to give equal attention to both.
With the positive intentions and progress of the government’s reform and integration agendas, and the opportunities for innovation and technology, there is cause for optimism, though there continue to be significant pressures on the homecare sector.
Demand is outstripping supply and workforce shortages are at record levels. Councils are reporting high levels of unmet need in the community and NHS hospitals are struggling to discharge people back home due to inadequate capacity in homecare. Delayed discharges mean that hospital beds are unavailable for new admissions, which contributes to increased ambulance waits, cancelled clinics and cancelled operations. This makes it difficult for the NHS to respond in a timely way to emergencies and to reduce waiting lists, contributing to avoidable deaths.
Poor pay, terms and conditions of employment have long been a problem for the homecare workforce, particularly in the state-funded part of the sector which represents 70% of the whole. These stem from inadequate funding by central government and poor practices in commissioning and purchase of homecare by public sector organisations. Indeed, the government’s expenditure on homecare represents only 4% of the amount spent on the NHS.
In recent years, the homecare sector has also been adversely affected by Brexit, COVID-19 and now international conflict. Tightening of labour markets, pressure on supply chains and rising energy costs are fuelling inflation. This is leading to a rapid rise in cost of living, which is placing further pressure on low-paid workers and their employers. In homecare, high fuel costs are a particular issue. Homecare workers are also struggling with no or low pay whilst following government guidelines to isolate after a positive COVID-19 test.
We call on the government to:
- Provide temporary grant funding as a fuel allowance to cover increased costs of fuel for vehicles needed to deliver homecare;
- Reinstate emergency COVID-19 funding for social care to enable careworkers to receive full sick pay whilst isolating;
- Provide adequate baseline funding for homecare to ensure that fee rates cover costs and careworkers receive fair remuneration, including full recompense for work-related expenses such as mileage. Such investment is needed to build workforce capacity and reduce unmet need, recognising that NHS hospitals will never succeed in reducing their waiting lists if they cannot free up beds by discharging people back home.