The new social care white paper has been widely criticised by leading organisations who say that although the 'overall vision' is the right one, it is hollow words without the money to deliver it.

In the white paper, People at the Heart of Care, the government has set out a 10-year vision for adult social care and provides information on funded proposals that it will implement over the next three years.

On 7 September 2021, the Prime Minister announced £5.4 billion for adult social care reform over the next three years. At the Autumn Spending Review 2021, it was confirmed that £1.7 billion of this funding would be for major improvements across the adult social care system.

This white paper sets out how some of this money will be spent to begin to transform the adult social care system in England, such as new investments in:

  • housing and home adaptations
  • technology and digitisation
  • workforce training and wellbeing support
  • support for unpaid carers, and improved information and advice
  • innovation and improvement.

The Health Foundation said although the white paper paints a positive picture of what social care could look like in the future, it falls well short of what is needed to deliver the prime minister’s promise to ‘fix’ social care once and for all.  

Hugh Alderwick, Head of Policy, added: "The funding provided by government for social care over the coming years is barely enough to meet growing demand for care —let alone improve and expand the system and provide care to more people who need it. While there are some welcome initiatives, such as developing a mix of housing options to help people live independently, they are a drop in the ocean given the challenges facing people using and providing care.

"The white paper’s aim to improve terms and conditions for social care staff is positive, but there is no extra funding to achieve it. Beyond the money to cover the new cap on care costs, just £1.7bn of extra funding from the health and care levy will go towards the social care system over the next three years.

"This will do nothing to tackle the high levels of unmet need, persistent workforce shortages and recruitment difficulties, and the precarious position facing many care providers. To meet these challenges, we estimate that additional funding of around £7.6bn in 2022/23 is needed, rising to £9.0bn in 2024/25, over and above that provided for in the Spending Review."

Funding allocated to deliver white paper is insufficient

The King's Fund also said government’s plans mean social care services will continue to face significant challenges in supporting people who rely on them to 'live independent and fulfilling lives.’ 

Sally Warren, Director of Policy, said: "The overall vision in the white paper is the right one and if delivered could significantly improve the experience of people receiving care and those who work in the sector. However, the steps outlined don’t go fast or far enough to achieve this vision and the funding allocated to deliver it is insufficient. 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. 

"There are some positive proposals such as the focus on giving higher priority to developing better options for housing – an area that has been under-developed in the UK until now but has the potential to make a significant difference to supporting people to live independently in their communities.  

"But there is nothing in the proposals to deal with some of the most urgent and immediate problems currently facing the sector including high levels of unmet need and a fragile provider market. There is also a lack of new, practical measures to empower people to have personal choice and control over the care they receive."

Missed opportunity to help sector get through the challenging winter ahead

In an analysis of the funding and proposals, NHS Providers say that taking the funding reform and white paper proposals together, the government has missed a significant opportunity to not only reform the social care system in the longer term but also support the sector to get through the challenging winter months ahead.

With £3.6 billion of the £5.4 billion raised for social care by the levy going towards funding the cap and means test, the white paper sets out how the remaining £1.7 billion will be spent over three years. This includes £300 million to increase the range of supported housing options, and £150 million to improve digital technology.

It also sets out a skills framework and digital hub, and repeats the previously announced £500 million for workforce training and development. However NHS Providers say there are no tangible measures to address high vacancy levels or to expand the workforce to keep up with forecast increases in demand.