Social Care: Nottinghamshire

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:13 pm on 21st February 2022.

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Photo of Gillian Keegan Gillian Keegan Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) 10:13 pm, 21st February 2022

I thank my hon. Friend Ben Bradley for securing this debate. I also thank him personally for his sterling work during the pandemic as Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council. He brings a unique insight to this debate as a result of being both a Member in this place and someone who works on the frontline dealing with the issues that I also have to wrestle with. I listen to him and very much appreciate all that he has to say.

I commend, too, the powerful contributions from my hon. Friends the Members for Broxtowe (Darren Henry) and for Gedling (Tom Randall). As they said, the adult social care sector faces challenges in recruiting and retaining care staff. We recognise that, and we have put in place a range of measures, as I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield would recognise, to support local authorities and care providers in addressing those workforce pressures, including making available a total of £462.5 million in workforce recruitment and retention funds, and the latest phase of our national recruitment campaign, promoting the rewarding and stimulating roles in the adult social care sector. I am sure many hon. Members have seen the adverts now on TV.

The new workforce recruitment and retention funds can be invested in a number of measures to support staff and to boost staff retention within social care. They include, but are not limited to, occupational health, wellbeing measures and incentive and retention payments, and there is a lot of flexibility within that fund, which I am sure is appreciated. On 15 February 2022, we added care workers, care assistants and home carers to the health and care visa and the shortage occupations list for a 12-month period, which will make it quicker, cheaper and easier for social care employers to recruit eligible workers from overseas.

The Government are also providing a sustainable local government settlement, which is designed to ensure key pressures in the system are met, including the national living wage and national minimum wage. An increase in the rate of the national living wage will mean that many of the lowest-paid care workers will benefit from a 6.6% pay rise effective from 1 April 2022. We continue to monitor workforce capacity and the impact of our interventions through the Department’s capacity tracker, workforce data and local intelligence, as well as monitoring the impact on unmet need and NHS discharge—and, of course, hearing from many hon. Members about what is happening on the ground locally.

Turning to our workforce strategy, in our “People at the Heart of Care” White Paper we committed to at least £500 million to develop and support the workforce over the next three years. That is an important part of our wider investment to reform the social care system. The commitment includes developing a knowledge and skills framework, developing career pathways and linked investment to support progression within roles and across the wider sector for care workers and registered managers. That will help to ensure that staff feel recognised, rewarded and equipped with the right skills and knowledge, and that their health and wellbeing are supported.

Moving to the fair cost of care, we are committing £1.4 billion over the next three years to support local authorities in moving towards paying providers a fair cost of care. That will enable local authorities to ensure that local care markets can respond to the changes that reform will bring, and to address under-investment and poor workforce practices.

On funding, our focus has been on ensuring that the social care sector has the resources it needs to respond to covid-19. Throughout the pandemic, we have made available over £2.9 billion in funding for adult social care. Additionally, we provided £60 million for local authorities to support the adult social care response to covid-19 in January 2022 alone; since May 2020, we have provided over £50 million of specific funding to Nottinghamshire to support the adult social care sector in its response to covid-19. The most recent infection control and testing fund provided almost £400,000 of funding to Nottinghamshire to enable vaccination of social care staff.

My hon. Friend mentioned hospital discharge. To support safe and timely hospital discharge, we have made nearly £3.3 billion available via the NHS since March 2020. That includes an additional £478 million to continue hospital discharge programmes until March 2022.

I was delighted that my hon. Friend recognised the importance of housing in preventing social care needs from deteriorating and the link between housing and health. In our “People at the Heart of Care” White Paper we announced that we will launch a new investment in housing of at least £300 million over the next three years to connect housing with health and care and to drive the stock of new supported housing for adults of all ages. We have committed to continuing to incentivise the supply of supported housing through the care and support specialised housing—or CASSH—fund, with £213 million available over the next three years, which works out as £71 million a year.

Our integration White Paper is the next vital step in our journey of joining up health and social care at a local place-based level. Our proposals will help the system to recover from the pandemic. I know that Nottinghamshire has seen the introduction of End of Life Together—a collaboration of local hospices, community trusts, primary care providers and acute trusts that came together to deliver palliative care and end-of-life services. That was much needed in the local area and I am sure it has provided a lot of support to families at their time of need.

We have also focused on training and opportunities for the workforce across the system, and that will allow staff to get on with doing their jobs without organisational silos standing in the way. Both my hon. Friend and I very much hope that the integrated care systems will really help to deliver much better services locally.

I thank my hon. Friend and all hon. Members for their contributions on this important topic today. I know that they are deeply committed to supporting the social care system and making sure that people get the support they need. I hope the actions I have set out today reassure them that the Government are working tirelessly to make that happen, and I look forward to continuing to work with them to make it happen in Nottinghamshire. Finally, I take this opportunity to thank all those on the frontline providing care: people who go the extra mile, day in and day out, to make a vital difference to people’s lives. I say thank you on behalf of all of us.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.