Speech: Health and Social Care Secretary NCASC Conference speech

Department Of Health

November 25
16:24 2021

Good afternoon Im grateful to the LGA, ADASS and the ADCS for bringing us all together for this timely conversation.

For me, one of the most poignant early moments in this role was hearing about Chris Dando and his team at Court House Retirement Home in Cheddar. Chris and his team of 12 moved into the home for three months throughout the first lockdown protecting residents from the dangers of Covid-19.

Its the kind of sacrifice I know thousands of colleagues across social care have made through the pandemic putting the safety of the people they care for over and above seeing their families, their friends, and even their own children. I can tell you, as a husband, a father and a son, I can only imagine what that feels like.

Its hard to find the right words to express the full extent of my appreciation and admiration for what everyone working in social care, and what they have achieved. I know there are tens of thousands of families around the country that feel the same way as I do.

Weve seen social care colleagues take on some really heavy burdens. Theyve comforted people through terrifying times, sometimes taking the place of loving families at the bedsides of people as they sadly breath their last.

Equally, weve seen the continued heroism of our unpaid carers. The man shielding with his disabled daughter. The woman caring for her elderly father. Theyve confronted a time of unimaginable uncertainty with incredible compassion and grace.

And weve seen people in local government people like you pull out all the stops to just make it work. Just make the system work.

Together, you have been the very best of us. You make me and you make your country proud.

Ive always believed that how we treat people who need care really reflects on our society.

In my University days when as a volunteer for a charity at my University that was called Community Action I volunteer to visit a lady called Margaret in a local care home in Exeter. Perhaps it wasnt the wildest way to spend my youth, but it felt important. Important for her, because it helped her feel less lonely and isolated. But it was important for me even at that age because I learned so much more about the society that were all a part of.

So its humbling that its now my job to work with you all, to tackle the challenges we face in social care. Challenges that are old and new: like how do we pay for it? How do we staff it? How do we support an ageing population? And much else.

Im sure of one thing: that weve never been held back by our lack of love or compassion. But its no secret to say the system doesnt always work for everyone in it.

So the question for people like me and people like you is this: how do we improve the system so it matches the care and dedication of our workforce?

Its no exaggeration to say its one of the most challenging questions of our time. So challenging, of course, that successive governments have ducked it.

But this government is determined to rise to it, even if that means making difficult decisions and delivering some difficult messages. Thats just what a responsible government should do.

Because being serious about levelling up means being serious about social care.

Theres no doubt, of course, its complex. Anyone who says its simple is kidding themselves. But today I thought I would reflect on three areas where I think we can really make the difference: in Funding, Integration and Workforce.

So, lets start with the money. Because we know we need big changes in this area.

Back when I was Communities Secretary working with many of you, and its good to be working together again I pushed for the Social Care Precept and put money-raising powers in the hands of local leaders. And now, back in government, Ive worked with No. 10 and the Treasury to take social care funding to the next level.

In September, we announced the Health and Social Care Levy, which will help put social care onto a more sustainable financial footing for the future.

Were putting 5.4 billion into the sector over the next three years.

And were also giving councils around 1.6 billion of additional grant funding in each of the next three years.

More than that, many families across this country will have greater peace of mind knowing that were capping lifetime personal care costs bringing to an end the cruel lottery that so many families have faced.

But all of us know its not just the money that needs to change, its the way that we work too.

So the second area I want to reflect on this afternoon is Integration, and the changes we need to achieve more of that.

Now, sometimes conversations about integration can feel very abstract. There are terms like system working, seamless care, and person-centred health. All of them hint in some way at where were trying to get to.

But if I had to put it in a more straightforward way, what I would say is this: I want to stop people from bouncing around the system. The integration between health and care is the only way I think we can achieve that goal.

So the reshaping of our health and care landscape which is taking shape around us as we speak has integration at its heart.

A couple of days ago, I did the Third Reading of our Health and Care Bill before parliament. Its a uniquely important piece of legislation. It will mean integration by default; it will remove the rules and regulations that make sensible decision making harder; and it will boost accountability to the people who use health and care.

Supplementing the Health and Care Bill will be two White Papers. One on Adult Social Care and a second on Integration.

Well be bringing forward the White Paper on Adult Social Care very shortly. And today, I want to share some of the principles that will underpin it that particular White Paper.

First: That everyone has choice, control and support to live independent lives. Second: that everyone can access outstanding personalised care and support. And third: that Adult Social Care is fair and accessible for everyone who needs it.

Now of course, were not starting from scratch were building on the best of the 2014 Care Act, but being unsentimental in leaving behind what hasnt worked well from that Act.

And although today isnt the occasion to set out the White Paper in detail, it is a good moment to pay thanks to everyone whos played their part in shaping it, not least the LGA, ADASS and ADCS, alongside many hundreds of other organisations. The White Paper will be better for all your contributions and Adult Social Care will be better for them too.

The second White Paper is on Integration.

Through the pandemic, so many places have shown whats possible when people work together. Weve joined-up on jabs. Weve been smarter about discharge. And weve got data flowing where it needs to go.

So our Integration White Paper will build on all of that, setting out our ambitions on shared electronic health and care records and delivering digital services together.

It will also set out a more joined-up approach to the workforce. Not only do we want to make it easier for staff to move between health and care, but we want more joint roles across health and social care too.

And this spirit of integration runs through so many of our other pieces of work. Like our Disability Strategy, and our Autism Strategy, for example. For too long, disabled and autistic people have found that public services often dont meet their needs. I want those days to be numbered.

A key way were trying to change this is mandatory training on learning disability and autism in health as well as social care. So, thats something were already piloting.

Its yet another example of where we need to get to: a workforce that thinks and acts in a truly joined-up way.

This takes me to the third and final area I want to reflect on today: our incredible workforce.

Yesterday afternoon, the Prime Minister had the honour of hosting a reception at Downing Street attended by 50 front-line care workers. I think its so important that people like him and me are recognising this incredible career path.

I think the pandemic has been an important turning point for social care. Its been the moment when the British public has truly begun to grasp the hardship and heroism that comes from a career in care.

Were now watching it on our TV screens, with Ed Balls new programme on BBC iPlayer. And were seeing it in advert breaks too, with our Made with Care TV Campaign.

I think the adverts get it right. The energy. The variety. The rewards.

And I want to congratulate everyone involved with that campaign, because its an important one. Its estimated there will be almost half a million extra job opportunities in adult social care by 2035 with more than 100,000 current vacancies to be filled.

Its right that were putting huge amounts of energy into getting many more talented and dedicated people into the sector. But equally, Im determined for us to retain the brilliant people we already have.

Those of you whove watched that Ed Balls documentary will remember someone called Cameron. We saw how, even at only 19, Cameron had a natural gift for care. But knowing theres no clear career path for him has meant hes looking at a career as a paramedic or a nurse. We need to hold on to people like Cameron.

So we will invest at least half a billion pounds into the social care workforce over the next three years. Some of those funds will help us deliver new qualifications and better career routes in care.

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