Government announce drive for greater adoption of technology in social care on launch of White Paper

The Government has announced a new repairs service to help older and disabled people live independently for longer in their own homes as part of key social care reforms.

It is investing at least £300 million to increase the range of supported housing and at least £150 million to drive greater adoption of technology, which can support independent living and improve care.

A previously announced £500 million will go towards ensuring the social care workforce have the right training and qualifications and feel valued.

The plans are set out in the Government’s social care White Paper, which gives further details on how some of the £5.4 billion to be raised by the new health and social care levy will be spent over the next three years.

Setting out the proposals to the House of Commons, care minister Gillian Keegan (pictured) said “this Government is determined to get it right”.

She said: “On giving everyone the choice, control and the support to live independent lives, this requires physical and digital infrastructure.

“We are investing £300 million in housing. This investment will support local authorities to increase the range of new supported housing options because it’s vital that people live in their homes that meet their needs and give them the independence that they need.

“Moreover, we are setting up a new practical support service to help people with minor repairs and minor changes which will help them live independently for longer.

“This is in addition to increasing the upper limit of the Disability Facility Grant for home adaptations.”

The practical service will enable repairs and adaptation in people’s homes to help them remain safe with their families or to live independently, the Government said.

The amount people can receive from the disabled facilities grant will be raised to enable adaptations such as stairlifts, wet rooms and home technologies.

It said up to £25 million will be invested to change the services provided to support unpaid carers and increase their access to respite services.

A new website providing the public with easily accessible information on social care is also to be launched.

Shadow care minister Liz Kendall said the White Paper “falls woefully short of the mark” and that ministers have failed to address the immediate pressures facing social care.

Sally Warren, director of policy at The King’s Fund said the commitments set out over the past few months “do not match the ambition” set out by the Prime Minister when he pledged to reform social care.

There is nothing in the proposals that deal with some of the most urgent problems facing the sector – high levels of unmet need and a fragile provider market, she said.

She agreed with the White Paper’s overall vision but said the steps outlined “don’t go fast or far enough to achieve this vision and the funding allocated to deliver it is insufficient”.

She continued: “In particular, although there are some welcome commitments on training and skills for staff, there is little to tackle poor workforce pay and conditions and high vacancy levels in the sector.”

Councillor David Fothergill, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said councils share the Government’s ambition but will need a “substantially bigger share” of the new levy to do this.

He added: “Addressing unmet and under-met need, tackling rising pressures, retaining hard working care staff, and investing more in prevention are all areas which need investment now, if we are to significantly bolster core services.”

Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK and co-chair of the Care and Support Alliance, said a lack of investment means changes will be modest and slow, despite urgent immediate challenges.

She said: “Rather than the formula one vehicle that was required, the paper is an underpowered saloon car at best.”

She also said there is nothing in the paper to suggest that the Government has any “real strategy” for dealing with workforce problems, which will be magnified, “with potentially disastrous consequences”, if the new variant leads to a surge in Covid cases over winter.

Nuffield Trust deputy director of policy Natasha Curry said: “There are positive signs, however the Government must now rise to the challenge and back up words with the cash and bold and urgent action to pull social care back from the brink and deliver this vision.”

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