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Social Care

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:45 pm on 25th February 2020.

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Photo of Helen Whately Helen Whately Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) 6:45 pm, 25th February 2020

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his suggestion. It is almost as if he has seen my notes.

One thing I particularly welcome is the number of hon. Members on both sides of the House who spoke about the importance of careworkers, who provide such important care.

My hon. Friend Paul Bristow mentioned that both his parents were nurses in the care sector. He drew on his knowledge of care and rightly said that the profession should be held in higher esteem and that, just as we hugely value NHS staff, we should hugely value careworkers. The hon. Members for Warrington North (Charlotte Nichols), for Blaydon (Liz Twist), for Dulwich and West Norwood (Helen Hayes), for Putney (Fleur Anderson) and for Liverpool, Wavertree (Paula Barker) and my hon. Friend James Daly spoke along the same lines, and I could not agree more.

Not long after I became the Member of Parliament for Faversham and Mid Kent, I joined a careworker, Kim, on her daily round. By the time I met her at 7.30 am, she had already started washing her first client. By lunch time, she had washed, dressed, fed, medicated and chatted with six or seven men and women. Some of them were grateful and some of them, quite honestly, were not grateful, but they were all utterly reliant on her care. That experience really brought home to me the skill, knowledge and compassion of our social care workers. For those who need help, there are amazing carers with hearts of gold, like Kim.

Our care system depends on an extraordinary workforce of capable and compassionate carers, but we need more people to choose care as a career. That means changing the perception of being a care worker. As a society, we must truly recognise the importance of the work. We must make sure that more people realise the range of jobs in care and the opportunities for progression. The Government are currently investing in an adult social care recruitment campaign with the strapline “When you care, every day makes a difference”. We are working with Skills for Care to support workforce development and there is funding for a workforce development fund. That is really important, but we know that we must go further in making sure that we truly value the important work that the care sector does and to make sure that the care profession attracts the workforce that we need and gives them the opportunities to lead a truly fulfilling career.

Several Members rightly talked about unpaid carers, who also provide so much vital care. We fully recognise the value of that work and know the importance of support for those people who do so much caring. That is one reason why the Government will introduce a statutory right to leave from work for one week a year for the 5 million people who juggle work alongside being an unpaid carer.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bury North talked about quality of care, and it was really important to hear that mentioned as part of the debate. He spoke about how good care is in his constituency, and he is absolutely right that we should talk about how good care is throughout England. Some 84% of adult social care providers are currently rated good or outstanding by the CQC. Let us recognise the high quality of care.

My hon. Friend also spoke about the importance of integration—of the NHS, local authorities and care providers working together—as did my right hon. Friend Damian Green, who is knowledgeable on this subject. The interplay between the NHS and social care is critical. The better care fund and the improved better care fund are a success story in respect of enabling more co-operation between the systems. It is crucial that we continue to build on that success so that our care system meets the needs of the individual, not just of the system.

My hon. Friend Dean Russell made some excellent points about how, paradoxically, we can use technology to help to achieve more human and more personal care for a more cohesive and effective care system.

Both my hon. Friend Jackie Doyle-Price and the shadow Minister for Care, Barbara Keeley, mentioned those with learning disabilities and autism who are being cared for in in-patient settings. I am new to this job, but I absolutely appreciate the importance of making sure that we do better in this regard. People should be cared for in the best place for their needs. At the end of last month, the number of those in in-patient settings had been reduced by 24% compared with 2015—