Yesterday’s announcement (7th September 2021) by Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak & Sajid Javid demonstrates the lack of recognition of the social care crisis we have been experiencing for so many years. The announcement was to share the proposal for a 1.25% increase on National Insurance Contributions as a levy towards Health and Social Care.
With the social care workforce significantly depleted- workers are leaving care to take higher paid jobs in other sectors, offering more financial security and career stability. Loss of freedom of movement following Brexit has meant loss of many migrant workers who were propping up the social care workforce. A survey of the Directors of Adult Social Services last year found that only 4% were confident that they had the budget to meet their statutory duties. This is extremely concerning, but not at all surprising given the many years of austerity measures.
Initial announcements about the new levy suggested that the funding for social care would ensure fairer rates of pay to providers and support for building and improving the workforce. Within 24 hours, the message had changed significantly to messages about NHS recovery from Covid-19 pandemic and #buildbackbetter. At one point in his announcement, Prime Minster Boris Johnson clearly stated that this reform was about reducing waiting lists for NHS. He used the phrase “Biggest catch-up in the history of the NHS” and talked about the levy going towards more emphasis on NHS treatment delays and improving salaries for NHS key workers which had been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Later in the announcement, Sajid Javid commented that funds from the new levy will initially move into the NHS. He went on to say that this was the beginning of wider reforms- referencing the forthcoming integration white paper to deliver health and care as one.
According to the announcement, £36bn will be put into the NHS over the next 3 years. As a rough calculation, if averaged out across the 106 CCGs in the UK, this would be less than £350,000,000 per CCG over a 3 year period. Once broken down into an annual amount per CCG, it suddenly doesn’t sound a lot. Not an awful lot of money would be left for social care once the issues relating to shortage of nurses, pay rises for NHS key workers & waiting lists have been addressed.
The people actually paying for social care currently are those who require social care support- often those on low incomes, with additional household and family pressures to manage. It simply isn’t good enough.
It’s a very generic message which (when you dig a little under the surface) has far more to do with putting a sticking plaster over the NHS and very little to do with social care at all. A little extra funding is not going to make any real impact to the very broken social care system long-term, and it sounds as though social care won’t even see any of the funding initially anyway! We need a radical system change. Could ICS’s (Integrated Care Systems) offer an opportunity to develop a more efficient and cost-effective system with a single point of assessment, planning & resource allocation so that people can Self-Direct their own care & support arrangements? Could it offer the opportunity to strengthen communities and bring power, decision-making and financial resources to local areas where it really makes sense?
A clearer message is needed – what is this funding actually for, how will it be rolled out and what difference will it make? It’s worth pointing out that the decision hasn’t actually been made yet at the time of writing- we are yet to hear the outcome of the proposals.
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I’m writing this on my final day of self-isolation, having started with Covid-19 symptoms ten days ago.
From what I can gather, I’ve had a rather mild experience of the virus. I’m a healthy, active person. I’m not at risk due to my age, and I don’t have any underlying health conditions.
But I do live on my own, and I have spent ten very lonely and quite scary days not knowing what to expect and feeling overwhelmed by the plethora of information on the internet, the news, the TV and social media.
I’m really excited to be able to go out for a walk tomorrow when my self-isolation period is over, and I know I will be paying attention to what is going on around my neighbourhood with a fresh pair of eyes.
I have not known whether my symptoms are following the ‘usual’ pattern and timeline. I have not known when I can expect to be feeling better or felt clear about when it is acceptable for me to start working again. I have not known whether I am entitled to any financial support while I am not able to work.
I have not known whether to expect a sudden ‘dip’ in my well-being, after thinking that I am recovering.
I have not known when a day of no energy and very ‘foggy’ brain might indicate that I am getting worse or that I may need medical attention.
At my most anxious, I tried to call the NHS 111 helpline for reassurance as advised, and was greeted with a recorded message telling me that they were experiencing a high volume of calls and that I should look on the website for information.
I think one of the worst parts of the illness has been the anxiety.
It got me thinking.
Covid-19 is one of many many health conditions experienced by people in our communities; but there are so many people out there who live with this type of anxiety on a daily basis- due to long term physical or mental health conditions, disability or other forms of disadvantage.
Whilst my experience with Covid-19 has been very unpleasant, I know that I am likely to make a full recovery and return to a life without that level of anxiety and uncertainty; but for many people- this is their norm. For some people, they will go on to live with the symptoms of Long Covid for a long time after their initial period of illness has ended.
(I focused on the information provided by the NHS test and trace service, and I avoided social media, TV etc because it was feeding my anxiety)
(I spoke to people I knew personally- who had already experienced Covid, and had since recovered)
(I chose key people who were happy for me to call any time I needed support. At my most anxious points, these people were checking in on me by phone on an hourly basis to provide me with reassurance that there would be help if I needed it)
(I had somebody who could run errands for me- collect medication, do my shopping etc)
(I had people who called me every day to check how I was and keep me company so that I didn’t feel alone whilst I was self-isolating)
(When I was feeling well enough, I had video calls with friends/family, played games online with friends, joined online quizzes, watched movies & TV, even silly video clips which friends sent to cheer me up)
The community response during the Covid-19 pandemic has been incredible over the past year. Initially, we heard a lot about it in the news; but as the pandemic has dragged on, there seems to have been less and less of a focus on the community support which is available to people who are struggling. We seem to be hearing less of the good news stories of how people are helping each other and of how neighbourhoods are providing their own responses to the pandemic so that people do not feel alone or isolated.
So if you’re a community-based organisation; a faith group; a neighbourhood group or simply an individual who is offering support to the people in your local community who are alone, self-isolating, recovering from Covid-19, disabled, elderly or experiencing difficulty in any way- please make sure that people know how to find you, and then provide different ways for them to connect with you and others.
Here are some suggestions:
Sarah Holmes is a Freelance Consultant working on personalisation within the Health and Social Care sector/community space; and a Director of Imagineer Development UK CIC.
Both Sarah & Liz Leach Murphy are practitioners, trainers and coaches in Independent Support Brokerage and consultancy for Strengths-Based Approaches with collectively over 40 years of experience in the Health and Social care and community sectors.
Imagineer Development UK CIC is a social enterprise based in the North of England with a national reach; originally set up as a test bed for Independent Support Brokerage in the UK. Imagineer is the hosting organisation for the National Brokerage Network, which is a community of practice for Independent Support Brokers. Imagineer provides a range of training & consultancy services in Support Brokerage, Person-Centred and Strengths-Based Approaches.
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