Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK and Co-Chair of the Care and Support Alliance, said:
“This White Paper sets out some important, long overdue policy advances, but lack of investment means any changes will be modest and slow to arrive, whereas the scale of the challenge is huge and demands urgent action now. The millions of older and disabled people putting up with inadequate services, if they get any service at all, needed the Paper to turbo-charge a process of transformation, but that was never going to be possible with the meagre funding allocated by the Treasury to it at the Spending Review. Rather than the formula one vehicle that was required, the Paper is an underpowered saloon car at best.
“Over time, the Paper’s provisions to improve data collection, spread the use of IT across the care sector and put in place a stronger workforce infrastructure are likely to prove extremely valuable, the foundations of a less intensely fragile system in future. However, in all honesty most people would reasonably expect these basics to be in place already. The fact they are not reflects how badly social care has been neglected by governments for far too long. The Paper signals an important acknowledgement that this must now change, but one can’t help but be conscious of just how far there is to go before every older and disabled person who needs a decent care service actually receives it – we are way behind some other comparable countries in this respect.
“Meanwhile, Rome burns. Chronic workforce shortages are the biggest concern and seem to be getting worse, with uncompetitive pay the main culprit. There is nothing in the Paper to suggest the Government has any real strategy for dealing with it, given the lack of care funding overall. If COVID surges this winter because of the new variant these workforce problems will be magnified, with potentially disastrous consequences. There are similar concerns about unpaid carers collapsing after an unbelievably challenging twenty months too.
“Mapping out a positive journey is incredibly hard when you are essentially in the midst of a crisis, the ground wobbling below your feet. That’s where social care is today, and it means that until the Government does more to put out the immediate fires, any efforts to craft a better future always risk achieving much less than they should or being undermined along the way.”