In December 2021, the People at the Heart of Care white paper was published, presenting a transformative 10-year vision for adult social care in the UK. Shaped through extensive collaboration with national and local government, care providers, care staff, the NHS, people who receive care and support, their families, charities, and the voluntary sector, the white paper places individuals at the centre of care provision. The vision encompasses three core objectives: empowering people to live independent lives with choice, control, and support; ensuring access to exceptional and tailored care; and establishing a fair and accessible social care system.
Building upon the progress made over the past year, the UK government has now unveiled a comprehensive plan that outlines the most impactful proposals for adult social care reform and introduces new commitments. The plan encompasses key milestones and details the transformative changes that will be experienced by care recipients, unpaid carers, and social care workers. Notable activities included in the plan are as follows:
Improving Access to Care and Support: The government is investing £562 million in 2023-2024 and £845 million in 2024-2025 through the Market Sustainability and Improvement Fund to enhance adult social care capacity and services at the local authority level. Additionally, a programme will be launched in summer 2023 to establish support arrangements for international recruitment in the social care sector, bolstering the workforce. The NHS Volunteer Responders programme will also be expanded to create a joint health and social care volunteer initiative, enabling more people to access timely and appropriate care.
Recognising Skills for Careers in Care: The plan emphasises the recognition of the skills and experience of social care workers and supports their career development. A new care workforce pathway will be introduced, along with a Care Certificate qualification. A skills passport will provide a verifiable record of training and qualifications, and funded training schemes will be made available. The government aims to better acknowledge and appreciate the crucial role played by care workers in improving the lives of those they care for.
Digital Transformation in Adult Social Care: The government will support the testing and scaling of new technologies between 2023 and 2025 to enhance the quality and safety of care. By 2025, there will be increased adoption of digital social care records, enabling secure and real-time sharing of care information among authorised professionals in the NHS and social care sector. Additionally, a future digital learning offer will be developed, integrating digital skills into core training and development opportunities for staff.
Personalising Care through Stronger Data: From April 2023, person-level data collection will be introduced to gain better insights into care journeys and outcomes. This will facilitate the identification of effective interventions and improve coordination between health and social care services. By the end of 2023, a roadmap for enhancing data collection, usage, and sharing will be finalised. The draft of “Care data matters” has been published to engage care recipients, workers, and providers in the roadmap’s development.
Improving Transparency and Accountability: Commencing from April 2023, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) will assess local authorities’ delivery of adult social care, offering greater understanding of care quality at the local level. This assessment will enhance transparency, improve local accountability, and help identify and disseminate good practice for the benefit of more people seeking high-quality care and support.
Supporting Independent Living: The government will establish an independently chaired Older People’s Housing Taskforce to unlock investment in retirement housing, providing more suitable housing options for individuals in later life. Additional funding will be allocated to support home adaptations and repairs, enabling individuals to maintain independence and facilitate quicker discharge from hospitals.
Driving Innovation and Improvement: A targeted 2-year fund will be launched in 2023 to test and scale innovative approaches and transform local authority processes. An innovation and improvement unit will be established within the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to provide dedicated support to local authorities. Collaboration with sector partners will shape the strategic direction for improvement, addressing operational challenges and promoting the adoption and scalability of new approaches.
Joining Up Services for People and Carers: The government will provide support to integrated care systems (ICSs) and their constituent organisations to improve the coordination of care. This includes expanding the Better Care Fund (BCF) Support Programme and launching a new national leadership programme for local health and social care leaders. Furthermore, additional support will be provided for unpaid carers, recognising the invaluable contribution they make to the care sector.
The comprehensive package of reforms outlined in this plan marks a crucial step towards the government’s 10-year vision for adult social care. The government remains committed to engaging with all stakeholders, including care providers, recipients, and supporting organisations, as they work together to implement these reforms and make further progress towards the shared vision of a person-centred, accessible, and high-quality adult social care system.
UK Government: Next steps to put People at the Heart of Care