Tag Archives: ADASS

ADASS sets out social care challenges

On the day before the election, and with social care still conspicuous by its absence in the political debate – possibly because none of the 3 main parties wants to touch this controversial subject with a bargepole – it has been left to ADASS to bring the subject back up.

In a 12-page document catchily titled ‘All you need to know about adult social care’, ADASS sets out where social care is and where it needs to go in the coming years. It makes for interesting reading.

On the plus side, ADASS reveals that standards are have improved every year since 2002. In 2009 there were no councils assessed as ‘poor’ (for the sixth year running) and 95% were rated ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. Quality of care has also improved, with three quarters of services assessed as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ in 2009.

So, in social care terms, we’ve never had it so good. Progress has been made and things are getting better. Good.

But this only tells part of the story – and the rest isn’t so rosy. For instance, it reveals that public spending on social care has increased by 53% in real terms since 1997. Taken on its own, that’s not too bad. But, when compared to the increase in spending other areas have had, such as the NHS (nearly 100% increase), education (60%) and transport (70%), it shows how much of a priority adult social care has been since Labour came to power.

ADASS also outlines the challenges facing the sector, such as how the number of people of people with dementia in the UK – about 700,000 currently – is set to double in the next 30 years. The report also reminds us that 75% of councils only provide services to people with ‘substantial’ needs at least – with the number of older people using services is falling at a time when the older population is rising.

The report concludes with the key issues that need to be addressed: reform of social care funding is “desperately” needed; the need for greater integration between health and social care; how social care should be more joined up with other services, such as housing and education; and securing a skilled, motivated and adequately remunerated workforce.

None of those will come as a surprise and how these issues will be addressed should have been a question put to politicians in recent weeks. As mentioned before, they haven’t, and it is those in social care – workforce and service users – who are set to lose out because of this.

For many people with disabilities, social care is a top priority and many feel ignored by the election debates, according to a survey by ComRes.  With some 1.8 million service users out there – and the election so finely balanced – have the politicians missed a crucial trick by ignoring them? Possibly, but we’ll never know.

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Care funding – at what cost?

As the Free Personal Care at Home Bill creeps its way through Parliament, the voices against it get louder – but yet they still seem not to be heard.

Lord Warner, a former health minister, attempted to get the Bill delayed in a motion to the House of Lords, but lost the vote yesterday.

He said that the government should wait to implement the Bill until it knows what it is doing with the wider review of care funding. That should be in the much-vaunted White Paper, although time is running out for it to be published this side of the election.

Like many others in the sector, Lord Warner also believes the government has got its sums wrong with the policy. For example, ADASS reckons that it could cost local government £500 million, double what is estimated – and pushing the total cost close to £1 billion. If they are right, it could impact on other care services, especially those for people with lower levels of need, as local authorities scramble to find the funds.

The government dismisses these criticisms, saying that the scheme has been properly costed.

Moreover, the Bill still doesn’t address some of the major issues in care and care funding. The plan does not mean that more people will be able to access care services, just that more – that all-important middle class, say cynics with an eye on the election – will be able to access them for free.

Also, it doesn’t address people having to sell their homes to pay for residential care; while they may get free care at home, as soon as they move out they will have to pay.

Of course, as I mentioned earlier, this is only part of the government’s plan for adult social care funding. However, when their full plans are revealed – and those of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats – I suspect that how they will be funded will be the primary talking point.

In an ideal world, the details of how people will be cared for should be paramount. While it will still be very important – obviously – I suspect that money (or lack of it) will talk the loudest when it comes to choosing new policies. Whether that means we get the best solution for service users is another matter.

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Pre-budget report pleases few in social care

If ever there was a pre-budget report that was going to be unpopular, it was this one. Chancellor Alastair Darling knew it and has pretty much admitted it too. Unfortunately for him, it seems he was right; finding anyone with much positive to say about it is tricky at best.

From a social care point of view, the PBR seems to have been attacked from all sides. While it is generally accepted that cuts to the public sector are necessary if the country is to dig itself out of the financial hole it is in, the size of these cuts is causing consernation.

For example, the drive to keep older people in their own homes and out of residential care by using preventative measures continues. While the government thinks £250 million can be saved this way, ADASS’ John Jackson has slammed these proposals as “naïve”. He says that most councils are already planning cuts of 4% in this area and to make more, without new initiatives designed to help local government or promote closer working and better resource utilisation between the NHS and local government, is unrealistic.

Elsewhere, the announcement of a cap of 1% on pay increases for public sector workers from 2011-13 has been met with dismay. With National Insurance set to go up by 1% in 2011 too, add in inflation – expected to rise to 3% next year – and that’s a pay cut for millions. However, many councils would have struggled to find money for pay increases in any case.

But as BASW’s chief executive Hilton Dawson has pointed out, this seems to fly in the face of the Social Work Task Force report’s recent recommendations on career structure and pay grades for social workers. He called it a “slap in the face for the profession”.

Public sector unions have also been critical of the plans to cap state contributions to local government employee pensions by 2012.

So, while the public sector is unhappy, is the private sector more welcoming? Err, no. The English Community Care Association, the representative body for the independent care sector, has also slammed the PBR. Chief executive Martin Green said that the; “report signals that the government is intent on protecting the statutory services at the expense of independent provision and putting dogma before need”.

But this criticism has come without anyone really knowing what the alternative is; the Conservatives have focused mainly on criticising Labour’s plans, rather than promoting their own. Ditto the Liberals.

Certain details have previously emerged – such as the Tories’ plans to make deep cuts quickly and freeze social work pay for a year – but nothing in the same detail as Labour.

Only when the other parties outline their plans in the same detail will everyone get a true sense of what may be to come for the social care sector and the country more widely on the other side of the general election.

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Social Work Task Force report good for social workers

It’s what all social workers have been waiting for: the final report from the Social Work Task Force. Today, the blueprint for the future of social work has been outlined and, on initial reading, the recommendations could bring about real and positive change for the profession.

The SWTF was set up at the height of the Baby P scandal – but not because of it, as commonly believed – in January and charged with conducting a ‘root and branch review’ of the profession. While the recommendations are hardly radical – more what many social workers/social work bodies have been requesting for years – they are nonetheless welcome.

In case you haven’t seen them, here are some of the headline recommendations:

  • Reforms to initial training, so all students receive ‘good quality’ education and practice learning placements
  • A new ‘licensing’ system which will introduce an assessed probationary year in employment for new social work graduates, during which they will receive extra support
  • A revamped framework for continuing professional development, underpinned by a practice-based masters qualification, so all social workers can keep their skills up to date and develop specialist knowledge
  • A career structure so experienced practitioners can progress in frontline roles as well as in management
  • A new standard for employers to ensure all employers put in place high quality supervision, time for continuing professional development and manageable workloads
  • Pay reform – to ensure social workers receive the appropriate pay and that it reflects their career development and progression
  • A new and independent College for Social Work led and owned by the profession, which must establish a stronger voice for social work and exercise appropriate influence over national policy making and public debate.

To see the full report and press release at the DCSF website, click here.

On the face of it, these all seem sound recommendations. I’m sure all social workers will like the look of pay reforms, for instance.

The career development options also seem positive – many social workers have complained that to progress in their career they have to go into management and away from the frontline.

Also, newly qualified social workers have said that their training doesn’t adequately prepare them for practice – this should help address that.

While the licensing requirement just seems like the GSCC registration system by another name, this is a minor quibble and is probably there to help increase public confidence in social workers.

But, as social work associations ADASS and ADCS have pointed out, this package of reforms also need to come with resources. Disappointingly, health minister Andy Burnham has said details of this will not be announced until next year, along with the implementation plan. This will worry those in the profession – with tightening budgets, money for reforms and increased pay will be hard to find from existing resources.

I’m sure there will also be cynicism from within some parts of the profession – which has seen many initiatives and reforms come and go over the years with little discernable impact on practice – over things like the commitment to cut workloads and provide time for professional development and the masters qualification. I can envisage an ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ attitude as this will be difficult to implement without bringing in more social workers. Again, this is where increased resources become crucial to the success – or otherwise – of the recommendations.

So, while these recommendations give hope for a brighter future for social work, it is now up to everyone – government, employers, social workers and others – to play their parts and ensure they become reality.

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