The government's top-down approach to social care reform has “crushed” the creativity needed to form a more streamlined later life care industry, according to Alison Hesketh, managing director of consultancy TimeFinders.
On a webinar hosted by Sheffield-based law firm Irwin Mitchell yesterday (October 12), Hesketh said there were many examples of creative solutions to cost saving in social care provision which must not go unnoticed.
She cited cost-saving exercises demonstrated by both the NHS and local authority care providers working together during Covid-19 to ensure people didn't go into hospital unnecessarily, and that they were only given care when they needed it.
“That best practice needs to be shared, because it's brilliant. And the key is that you've had some local leaders who've stood up and got things going,” she said.
“But if we start looking to the government to do its top-down approach, it's simply not going to work. We've got to find leaders in the community.”
She argued “some of the creativity is being, and has been, lost” by the government’s top-down approach to social care, resulting in key workers left out in the cold - either not listened to, unsupported, or both.
One example cited by the panel was the government’s new ‘Discharge to Assess’ scheme, designed to refer older, frail patients to care homes to free up hospital beds.
“What has been devastating about the way this has been handled is that families were led to believe that their care was being paid for. But actually, it was not a limitless pot,” Shaleeza Hasham, a fellow panel member and communications head at Surrey-based care home provider CHD Living, explained.
“The operator has been left [with this], having to sit down with families and have a very, very difficult conversation about what comes next. And this has been awful.
“To sit down with a family and say: ‘Right, I'm so sorry, the local authority is no longer going to pay for your care, so it is now going to cost £1,500 pounds a week for you to stay in this home. Or maybe we can reduce it a bit with a different bedroom, or a different location.' It's just not right.”
Hesketh said: “Creativity has been crushed by this top-down management approach. Carers know what they need to give. Carers know how they need to give it. So let's listen to them.”
Selling home not ‘unreasonable’
Along with the rest of the panel, Hesketh aired concerns over the government’s funding commitment to social care and the NHS in the form of a new 1.25 per cent social care levy and an equal rise in dividend tax, which it has estimated will total £12bn a year.
“I'm desperate that the funding doesn't get swallowed up in bureaucracy and middle management. It's got to go to the frontline, which is doing their very best and not wanting to pull the rug under people's care,” she said.