The social care sector has given a mixed reaction to the Prime Minister’s historic social care announcement yesterday.
MPs are set to vote later today on the PM’s plans to raise £12bn a year for health and social care through a 1.25% rise in national insurance.
While welcoming long-awaited reform of the sector, some leaders expressed disappointment at the level of funding set to be allocated to social care, which has been set at £5.4bn over three years with more promised to follow.
UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said the promised money did not “even come close” to meeting what is needed.
Vic Rayner OBE, CEO of the National Care Forum, highlighted the initial apportionment of funding fell “well short” of the additional £7bn funding requirements identified by the Health and Care Committee.
Dr Sanjeev Kanoria, Founder and Chairman, Advinia Health Care, warned: “In order to break the vicious cycle of care home closures that put immense pressure on expensive NHS hospital beds, it is crucial that stipulations are put in place to ensure that this extra funding does not get swallowed up by the NHS or by local authorities.”
Stewart Stretton-Hill, Tax, Trusts and Estates senior associate at Irwin Mitchell, said the reforms were “a mixed bag” and were “essentially a watered-down version of the Dilnot Commission back from 2010”, while lacking “specifics about attracting quality, qualified individuals into the profession”.
Stewart said the tax reforms were “totally unfair” and targeted at those “hardest hit by the pandemic”.
Anita Charlesworth, Health Foundation Director of Research and the REAL Centre, welcomed the £86,000 cap on social costs as a “positive and bold step forward” that will “provide people with greater certainty about the future costs they need to plan for and help reduce the care cost lottery”, but added funding fell “well short of what is needed to stabilise the current system and deliver the comprehensive reform that is so desperately needed”.
Similarly, while acknowledging the reforms as “a clear improvement”, the IPPR said new funds should be raised through income tax or increasing taxes on the wealthy.
The thinktank said the reforms also “ducked the question” of reforming social care, including higher pay and quality of services, and fell well short of putting the sector on the same basis as the NHS.
More positive reaction came from Nick Clarke, Head of Social Care Consulting, Grant Thornton UK LLP, who said: “The increase in national insurance announced today, or the new ‘health and social care levy’, should make a marked difference in the level of funding available to the social care sector, enabling better access to equipment, better quality of care and improved service delivery.”
John Tonkiss, CEO of McCarthy Stone said the PM’s announcement demonstrated the government was “starting to grasp that nettle”.
While sharing concerns about funding, Caroline Abrahams, co-Chair of the Care and Support Alliance and Charity Director of Age UK, said: “At last there’s some hope for a better future and we all stand to gain, since any of us, at any age, could develop a need for care.
“If the Prime Minister’s proposals are put into action he will deserve real credit for breaking a log jam that has held back social care reform for far too long. The intense debate about how to pay for it must not obscure the paramount importance of action being taken now to stabilise and rebuild care, especially after its terrible mauling by COVID-19.”
A care home in Wales was forced to use staff who have Covid-19 because it had nobody else to look after its 12 residents.
The Caledonia care home in Holyhead has 11 residents with coronavirus, with its owner revealing that two members of staff who had tested positive for the virus agreed to work the night shift so they could care for residents also with the virus.
Owner Ann Bedford said: “Even before Covid impacted on us, residential homes were struggling to recruit and now there is absolutely no spare capacity in the system, nowhere to turn.
“I have never known a situation as bad as we faced over the last weekend. As a matter of course we have contingency plans in place to cope in emergencies but even these buckled under the strain. My heart sinks when I think about for the weeks and months ahead.”
She added: “I cannot praise enough the two staff who volunteered to come in despite having the virus.
“I feel desperately sorry that we were in a position where we had no choice other than to call on them.
“The night-shift is tough and extremely tiring. It really knocked them for six and both these staff are now suffering much more from the symptomatic effects of Covid.”
Ms Bedford called on social services for help but they were facing their own emergencies.
She said “We felt abandoned and alone.
“The shortage of carers on Anglesey is at dangerous levels and is being intensified by the pandemic.
“I contacted one reputable care sector recruitment agency and their reaction when I asked for temporary staff was ‘You must be joking’. They were overwhelmed by pleas from desperate care home owners.”
Ms Bedford has run the Caledonia since 1987, but she said it has been increasingly difficult to recruit staff over the last decade.
It normally has a core of between 13 and 15 staff, including a manager, two full time senior carers, a rota of approximately 11 part time care staff, two cooks and two cleaners.
But over the weekend, with so many of the team off ill or self-isolating, they had no night staff and only three day staff, no cleaners and only one cook. All the residents of Caledonia care home are double vaccinated, including the 11 of them who have tested positive.
The Caledonia is now in lockdown, unable to accept any more residents and is closed to visitors until 29 September.
Ms Bedford also runs another care home four miles away, the 15-bed Plas Dyffryn care home.
She said: “At one stage over the weekend the authorities advised us to transfer staff from there to Caledonia but that would put staff and residents at Plas Dyffryn at increased risk.
“It is also not feasible because we simply do not have enough care staff on our books to stretch that thinly, and the Caledonia is specialised for dementia care so staff here need to be trained in those highly specific skills.”
Mario Kreft, the chair of Care Forum Wales, said: “My heart goes out to Ann, the staff, the residents and their families for this terrible predicament which is not of their making.
“Quite simply, the Caledonia was placed in a totally impossible position, and it really should not have come to this.
“The situation in which the Caledonia finds itself is sadly far from unique. Care homes and domiciliary care companies are having an absolute nightmare in terms of staffing and it is only a matter of time before one or more of them has to close.”
The Welsh Government will be receiving hundreds of millions of pounds from the UK Government as a result of the announced increase in National Insurance. Mr Kreft said it is “imperative that money is used wisely to address the chronic underfunding that is the root cause of low pay in the sector”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a 1.25% health and social care levy through national insurance contributions that will take effect from April 2022.
Speaking in the Commons, the PM said the levy would raise £36bn over three years for frontline health and social care services.
The PM, who admitted that the move broke a Conservative manifesto promise, said: “Governments have ducked this problem for decades …. This is the right and reasonable and fair approach.”
The changes mean that from October 2023 no-one will have to pay more than £86,000 for care over their lifetime with those with assets between £20,000 and £100,000 receiving some means test support.
Anyone who has assets of less than £20,000 will have their care costs fully covered by the state.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called the plans “a tax rise on young people, support workers and nurses, that places another burden on business” which put merely a “sticking plaster over gaping wounds”.
UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “General taxation should be the solution for social care, not national insurance hikes.”
The union chief accused the PM of taking a “cart-before-the-horse approach” and called for a “detailed plan” to “mend and future-proof a sector broken by years of neglect”.
While welcoming the extra funding as “positive news”, ICG Chair, Mike Padgham said there were indications the NHS would remain the priority for the government with better funding for social care only being ‘phased in’.
Mike said any reform “must tackle the staffing issue” and described capping care costs as a “good beginning but just the start”.
Social Care Institute for Excellence Chief Executive, Kathryn Smith, said it was up to the sector to make best use of the funding.
Kathryn added: “A fully transformed social care system needs to be personalised for people, using their assets rather than asking what is wrong with them. It needs to be more integrated with health; and regularly adapting to innovation to reach more people and extend the workforce.
“And it must put people who draw on services at its heart so that they are central to the decisions made about them. We call that co-production. In turn that will attract more people to the social care workforce, so that people who draw on services have much better experiences and outcomes.”
Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, said: “We have been waiting for a very long time for any concrete plans on the long term sustainability of adult social care reform and as such we welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement today. We want to go through the plans carefully and it is our hope that social care will be rewarded and recognised rather than playing second fiddle to the NHS. It is essential that money reaches the frontline.”
Maria Mallaband Care Group (MMCG) has confirmed it is committing more than £80m to develop nine new care homes, as part of an ongoing build programme over the next three to four years.
Last year, the group who are based in Leeds, opened Windsor Court, which opened in Malvern in July 2021 at a cost of £8 million, including the purchase of the land and the build.
Work is also underway to build a £9.5m care home in the Lace Hill area of Buckingham, creating a 62-bed property and scope for creating new job roles for people in the community.
Chris Womack, chief business development officer said: “We understand that choosing a care home can be a difficult decision for many. That’s why the investment that MMCG is making in the development of new homes is highly focused on creating fantastic spaces where people really want to spend their time. We are committed to delivering service offerings that push the boundaries in the provision of care.
“By ensuring a consistent approach through the new builds programme and adopting new thinking on each one of our new homes and the needs of the community, MMCG can deliver high-quality care to even more individuals across the UK.”
Each home will include its own cafes and bistros, salons, cinema rooms.
Commissioning and operations will be overseen by Daniel Turner-Naylor who has been promoted to operations director of new builds after joining MMCG as regional director for Yorkshire in January 2021.
Mr Turner-Naylor said: “I want to ensure that all of our new builds are designed with superior care at the heart, united with five-star facilities. We want to provide not only the best physical environment for those living in our homes, but also offer outstanding care that helps them feel reassured, connected and empowered.”
With each new build, MMCG is also creating a number of new jobs in their local area, in some cases, this will result in up to 100 jobs for local people in the vicinity of each home.
MMCG also recognises the importance of its role within the local community, so have introduced a community liaison role to ensure their homes engage in local events and build long-term relationships with local charities and organisations.
The number of COVID-19 related deaths in care homes in England and Wales has fallen in August after posting a monthly high in the previous week.
In its latest weekly update, the ONS reported 29 COVID-related deaths in care homes in the week ending 20 August, down from 42 in the previous week.
COVID deaths accounted for just 1.5% of all care home deaths in the week.
This year, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall has provided her personal recipe of Victoria Sponge for the Poetry Together tea parties where care home residents and school children will be able to share the love of poetry, tea and cake.
The Duchess of Cornwall has supported Poetry Together since the initiative was launched by Gyles Brandreth in 2019 in partnership with Dukes Education and National Poetry Day.
Last year’s event was forced online due to the pandemic but more than 150 schools have already signed up this year and the Duchess is hoping to join a tea party for a performance and a slice of her very own sponge.
Gyles Brandreth who stars in Celebrity Gogglebox and is a veteran of QI and Countdown said: “This is amazing, we now have the freedom for old people and young people to meet up at school or in care homes, perform poetry together that they have all learnt by heart, and enjoy tea and cake. And not just any cake, a royal cake! What more could you want?”
'We’ve seen the powerful impact that bringing young people and care home residents together can have'
National Poetry Day is celebrated on the first Thursday of October that encourages all to enjoy, discover and share poetry. This year, National Poetry Day takes place on 7 October 2021.
Monica Parle, executive director of the Forward Arts Foundation, organisers of National Poetry Day, said: “We’re incredibly proud to champion Poetry Together. We’ve seen the powerful impact that bringing young people and care home residents together can have, and then just how much poetry can connect the generations.
"Each year we come together to celebrate National Poetry Day because voices, words and stories help to bridge understanding in our community. We hope schools and care homes across the country get involved with this project.”
In October 2019, carehome.co.uk took a group of care home residents and primary school children to London where they joined The Duchess of Cornwall and Mr Brandreth in a celebration of reciting ‘Poetry Together’.
The performances took place at a school in Piccadilly where The Duchess performed one of her favourite poems Matilda by Hilaire Belloc with pupils from a local school.
This year, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall is hoping to join the children and care home residents again for one of the Poetry Together tea parties when old and young will perform poems together before sitting down to tea and HRH’s very own Victoria Sponge.
Aatif Hassan, founder and chairman of Dukes Education, said: “We are really pleased to be able to support Poetry Together again this year and bring communities together in person following a challenging time for both schools and care homes.
“Poetry has the power to educate us, enrich us and lift us and I look forward to seeing the smiles on the faces of both young and old at all the wonderful Poetry Together tea parties that will take place this year.”
Below is the recipe of HRH The Duchess of Cornwall’s Poetry Together cake
4 oz self-raising flour (110g), sifted 1 teaspoon baking powder 4 oz soft margarine or butter (110g), at room temperature 4 oz caster sugar (110g) 2 large eggs 2-3 drops of pure vanilla essence
Lemon curd or jam (with fresh cream, optional) or Nutella or your filling of choice, and sifted icing sugar.
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3, 325F, 170C
Two 7-inch (18 cm) sponge tins, no less than 1 inch (2.5cm) deep, lightly greased and lined with greaseproof paper (also greased) or silicone paper.
Take a large roomy mixing bowl, and sift flour and baking powder into it, holding the sieve high to give the flour a good airing. Then simply add all the other ingredients to the bowl and whisk them – preferably with an electric hand whisk – till thoroughly combined. If the mixture doesn’t drop off a wooden spoon easily when tapped on the side of the bowl, then add 1 or 2 teaspoons of tap-warm water, and whisk again.
Now divide the mixture between the two prepared tins, level off and bake on the centre shelf of the oven for about 30 minutes. When cooked leave them in the tins for only about 30 seconds, then loosen the edges by sliding a palette knife all around and turn them onto a wire cooling rack.
Peel off the base papers carefully and, when cool, sandwich the cakes together with lemon curd or jam (or jam and fresh cream) or Nutella or your filling of choice, and dust with icing sugar.
You can make a chocolate version of the Poetry Together cake too. Simply omit the vanilla essence and add 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder to the basic ingredients.