This week, the Government published its long-awaited People at the Heart of Care: Adult Social Care Reform White Paper, setting out a ten-year vision for adult social care, with details on the implementation of the funded proposals, announced in September and at the Autumn Spending Review. The document covers many key aspects such as housing, technology, digitisation, data, and innovation, but does it cover mental health social care adequately? Unfortunately, it does not.
Responding to the publication, Association of Mental Health Provider’s Chief Executive, Kathy Roberts, commented:
“It has taken a long time for us to get to this point and it is to be commended that the role of mental health social care in improving the lives of people with mental health needs and mental illness has been acknowledged. Beyond this recognition, mental health social care is relatively absent from the White Paper. There appears to be an absence of valuing people who need to draw on care and support to maximise their independence and to live in communities. The lack of parity is a concern.
“The reform paper is a reasonable start but must recognise the stark reality that the mental health social care sector is amid a workforce crisis. The Association’s members report daily of the need for urgent funding to meet the overall rise in wages, to retain skilled staff, and to continue delivering services safely. But the White Paper does not offer a plan for this. People might be at the heart of care in this publication but without an “urgent fix” for the crisis that is currently being faced, there will not be a workforce to deliver services and those with poor mental health and illness will not be able to receive the personalised or any other care and support that this White Paper focuses on.
The social care sector didn’t just need a 10-year plan, it also needed a now-plan.
“Yes, the vision is there, and it offers some light in what is currently a very dark tunnel. We can see it talks about the crucial elements for good care and support that we’ve been advocating for – choice, control, quality, accessibility – but it is just skimming the surface with no clear measures or detail outlined to deliver on this. We know from previous funding announcements that the money promised is just not enough – the social care costs and demand are rising but the pot cannot pay for it.”
The Association welcomes the inclusion of Isaac Samuel’s experience of how quality social care has helped him to recover from mental illness and maintain his mental health and wellbeing – a compelling example of the essential value of social care. Stories such as these, from people directly accessing care and support, highlight the impact the social care sector has on choice, control, and independence within people’s lives.
Titled “People at the heart of care,” it certainly gives an initial impression of seeking to deliver for people who use social care services and placing them at the front and centre. But with the detail and the funding lacking, can this vision truly become a reality?
So, does the White Paper meet our expectations? Unfortunately, it does not. Does it deliver on the Prime Minister’s promise to “fix social care”? Unfortunately, it does not.
In Kathy’s recent blogpost, Social care reform: making mental health a priority, she ended by saying; “My resolve remains steadfast. Only by working together can we truly transform and improve the health and wellbeing of our nation.” And our hope is now to go back to the Minister and to colleagues in government and work collaboratively to ensure we can reshape these plans and meet the expectations of people with poor mental health and illness and their families and carers, so they can access and receive the social care and support they are entitled to and deserve.
Notes to Editors
About Association of Mental Health Providers
Association of Mental Health Providers is the only national representative organisation for voluntary and community sector providers of mental health and wellbeing services across the country. With over 280 members, The Association works with local, regional, and national service providers to support the development of the sector, amplify its voice, and ensure the sector informs and influences all mental health policy and practice.