Government announces reform of social care in England

The UK government has published its long-awaited White Paper on social care reform in England, People at the Heart of Care.

Here's our summary and verdict on what the government's proposals will mean for people with Parkinson's and carers in England.

Care Minister Gillian Keegan told the House of Commons that people working in the system, people receiving care and families deserve "a system that works for them". 

The document outlines that reform will be based on 3 principles: 

  1. Everyone has choice, control and independence.
  2. Everyone can access outstanding personalised care and support.
  3. Adult social care is fair and accessible for everyone who needs it.

Over the next 3 years, the package includes:

  • At least £300m to help local authorities across England offer a wider variety of supported housing options to help people live as independently as possible.
  • The digitalisation of social care to support people to live independently and improve their quality of care across England, with £150m of funding. This includes digital care records being updated to make sure all caregivers have the latest up-to-date details on a person's circumstances to provide the best support possible.
  • A new professional development plan for the social care workforce and mental health and wellbeing resources, funded with an investment of at least £500m.
  • An additional £70m for local authorities across England to improve and increase their range of care and support services.
  • A new £30m programme to support local authorities across England to launch innovative new ways of delivering care in the community to improve the choice of care available to people.
  • An increase to the upper limit of the Disabled Facilities  Grant for home adaptations such as stairlifts, wetrooms and home technologies to allow people to live where they want to and increase the options for care.
  • Investing up to £25m to work with the care sector to support unpaid carers and increase access to respite services, giving them support and a break.
  • A new national website to provide easily accessible information for the public on social care and at least £5m to pilot new ways to help people understand and access the care and support available. 
  • A new obligation for Integrated Care Boards (which will perform the function of Clinical Commissioning Groups from April 2022) and NHS England to involve carers when commissioning care for the person they care for.
  • The introduction of a duty for the Care Quality Commission to independently review and assess local authority performance in delivering their adult social care duties.
  • Focus on improving the quality and availability of data nationally, regionally and locally through a new framework by spring 2022. 

How will these changes be funded?

Only £1.7bn has been allocated to fund these reforms. This will be generated through a new UK-wide 1.25% Health and Social Care Levy from April 2022.

The money raised by the Levy will first focus on NHS services, with social care unlikely to see the benefits for a couple of years. 

Laura Cockram, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Parkinson's UK, said: 

"After much anticipation, we welcome many of the overdue steps forward made in this White Paper and the detail provided about the government's vision for social care in England. 

"But we're disappointed not to see a strategy that addresses the chronic workforce gaps. Without urgent major funding, our historically stretched but brilliant social care workforce will be pushed to the limit, risking the health of people with Parkinson's and their carers. 

"Covid-19 has hit people hard, but it has particularly hit those living with Parkinson's, many of whom have faced deterioration in their symptoms, isolation and loss since the beginning of the pandemic.

"Concerningly, this strategy omits a guarantee that they will experience the person-centred, high-quality care they deserve."

Parkinson's UK is a member of the Care and Support Alliance, a group of charities campaigning to improve social care in England. You can read the Alliance's response here.

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