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A view from Westminster

With so much change happening in Westminster, and with new faces at the leadership helm, CMM caught up with the Minister of State for Care at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Gillian Keegan, and the Chief Nurse for Adult Social Care, Deborah Sturdy, to find out more about the Government’s vision for the care sector.

CMM: What is the DHSC’s vision for social care?

Gillian Keegan: The Government’s white paper, ‘People at the Heart of Care’, was published in December and sets out the department’s 10-year vision for the social care sector. People deserve a care system that works for them, and personalised care and support is central to our plans. In April, the Health and Social Care Levy came into effect and will reform the adult social care system by ending spiralling social care costs, introducing a limit to the cost of care for the first time and striking the right balance between public contribution and people’s personal responsibility. I want people to have the choice and control they need to live independent and fulfilling lives and be able to fairly access outstanding quality and tailored care and support delivered by our fantastic social care workforce, who rightly take great pride in the work
they do.

Deborah Sturdy: My vision for the workforce is that people experience a rewarding career where they are recognised for the vital work they do, and have the right training and qualifications with their wellbeing at the forefront of all we do. The Government has committed £500m to develop the workforce so they can continue delivering outstanding quality, personalised care and support and I look forward to working with them on initiatives to achieve this.

CMM: What will be the focus for ensuring a sustainable future of social care nursing? The recent KCL and NIHR report highlighted the need for much more research – is this something that is being planned?

Deborah Sturdy: Research is one of my top priorities as Chief Nurse for Adult Social Care and that’s why I commissioned the KCL report. It’s key to shaping our nursing practice and to ensure we’re providing safe, effective and high-quality care. The report highlighted the range of work social care nurses undertake, from clinical practice to education and leadership, while making recommendations to address recruitment and turnover challenges and ensuring the skills of nurses are utilised across the care sector. I’m working with researchers to take these ideas forward and recently held a very positive research roundtable with representatives from across the social care nursing sector, which will inform future research being led by NIHR.

CMM: How have people using services fed into the vision you’ve created?

Gillian Keegan: It was very important to us to hear from those with direct experience of care services when creating our bold vision for social care. We hosted a range of forums with the help of organisations like Carers UK and Think Local Act Personal across England. I am also continuing these conversations with those with lived experiences as we implement our plans for reform to ensure we’re getting this right for the people that need it. We spoke to over 200 stakeholders to shape our long-term vision of reform.

CMM: Sajid Javid recently said that £500m would be given to support social care staff. How will this money be spent and what does this support look like?

Gillian Keegan: Social care staff work tirelessly, and we can’t thank them enough for the incredible work they do. We are aware of the recruitment and retention challenges and the £500 million will address this, focusing on progression, development and wellbeing.

Through this investment we will develop a knowledge and skills framework to outline the key skills needed for roles, alongside hundreds of thousands of funded training places. Managers will also receive leadership development training and tailored support. A new Workforce Hub will be a central digital platform that allows staff to identify themselves as working in care, and it will include a new skills passport, so that care workers can keep a permanent record of their training and skills. Both the hub and skills passport will be voluntary in the first instance, establishing a foundation for registration of staff in the future, something we intend to explore further.

The investment also includes budgets for continuous professional development (CPD) to help the whole workforce access learning and development to refresh their knowledge so that they can confidently deliver the best possible care. The last two years have been immensely challenging for us all, but particularly for those on the front line, which is why the funding will also launch new wellbeing interventions such as talking therapies and improve access to occupational health so that the workforce can get the support it needs.

CMM: Do you have an update on the social care recruitment campaign?

Deborah Sturdy: Our Made With Care campaign ran from November 2021 to March 2022 across broadcast and digital channels to showcase the brilliant roles available in the care sector. A role in social care can be truly fulfilling and we are looking for people with the right qualities – compassion, resilience and empathy rather than qualifications, to get started. We plan to run another campaign in 2022/23. I encourage anyone interested to consider applying for this rewarding career.

CMM: What are the plans for improving the image of social care nursing?

Deborah Sturdy: The pandemic has further highlighted the huge contribution social care workers make to society. Having this permanent role and working closely with the Chief Nursing Officer, Ruth May, is important to positioning social care as an equal partner alongside the NHS. I want to develop a new narrative for social care nursing, which moves beyond nursing homes to thinking about nurse-led services, recognising nurses’ skills and expertise as central to the success of our care system.

One of my first and ongoing priorities in the role has been to recognise the extraordinary work of social care nurses at a national level, which is why I announced the first Chief Nurse for Adult Social Care Awards in May 2021, to recognise the incredible efforts of nurses and care staff. I am also working with Skills for Care and the Council of Deans to increase student nurse placements in social care and I want to see social care included in the undergraduate curriculums of all clinicians, including nurses, doctors, therapists and paramedics. Moving to an integrated student experience of social care will improve understanding of the care experience and build better relationships through shared learning. Nurses and the wider workforce will also benefit from the £500m workforce investment package.

CMM: With the workforce deficit currently higher in homecare than in residential care, how does Government plan to support the growth of this part of the workforce specifically?

Gillian Keegan: We know there are particular challenges for recruitment for homecare. In addition to our Made With Care campaign, we added care workers to the Health and Care Visa and Shortage Occupation List so vital vacancies could be filled and careers in social care are promoted to jobseekers by the Department for Work and Pensions. In the longer term, the £500m workforce investment will help to tackle the structural barriers to recruitment and retention. Our ‘People at the Heart of Care’ white paper also committed a further £570m per year to provide funding for people to adapt their homes to allow them to live out their lives independently.

CMM: Some providers might say that they have heard this all before. what’s your message to them?

Gillian Keegan: My message to providers is that this work is already underway, and it is my personal mission – and the department’s mission – to see this through. Genuine transformational change takes time, but we are working with the sector to drive forward our ambitious plans for reform. The new Health and Social Care Levy provides us with a long-term funding solution for health and social care,  from £3.6bn to reform care costs, £150m to increase digitisation and £300m to integrate housing into local health and care strategies.  This is about reform that is impactful and benefits the individual and sector as whole.

CMM: Which figures/organisations will you be connecting with in the sector over the coming months? 

Gillian Keegan: I connect with a wide range of voices from across adult social care – working alongside the sector is crucial to success. This includes local government; providers of care and their representatives; professional bodies, charities, unions, as well as people with lived experience of care and support. The Secretary of State also gave a keynote speech at the Care England conference because speaking to the sector is a priority for us both. I am always happy to hear from people so get in touch with your ideas of how I can ensure we are connecting across the sector.

CMM: Some of the plans for reform rely on funded pilots/projects. if successful, how will these be expanded to reach the whole of the sector?

Gillian Keegan: These pilots are really important for gathering valuable evidence and insight on how reform plans are being implemented on the ground. We want these to have meaningful, sector-wide impact in moving us closer to our 10-year vision for reform. In March, we announced five local authorities that will implement a new and improved adult social care charging reform system which caps the cost of care. Blackpool, Newham, North Yorkshire, Wolverhampton and Cheshire East local authorities will help us develop best practice and find out what works and what can be improved, so we can share these with key stakeholders and better roll out our plans nationally.

We’re also investing up to £30m to launch the Innovative Models of Care programme to help bring good and impactful examples of innovative care from the margins into the mainstream, providing the vehicle for local areas to come together to trial and embed ambitious new services.

“One of my first priorities in the role has been to recognise the extraordinary work of social care nurses at a national level, which is why I announced the first Chief Nurse for Adult Social Care Awards in May” – Deborah Sturdy

CMM: How will you ensure that people who might be resistant to change are encouraged to accept new models of care?

Gillian Keegan: I am working with local leaders and the sector to implement our plans for reform. Integrating the health and care sector is a shared mission and stakeholders will be involved every step of the way. The Innovative Models of Care Programme is about building a cultural change in the sector so that there are more options for people to suit their needs and circumstances.

By introducing more variety and volumes of models of care (for example, the Buurtzorg model) that support people in their own homes and local communities, local leaders can deliver greater personalisation and better meet complex care and support needs. This is backed by more than £70m to increase the support offer across adult social care to improve the delivery of care and support services.

The pandemic has shown the sector is dedicated to ensuring everyone gets the best possible care and we have had to be adaptable and flexible in challenging circumstances. I am confident they recognise the benefits of our plans for reform and will get behind them.

Gillian Keegan is the Minister of State for Care at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). Email:  Twitter: @GillianKeegan 

Deborah Sturdy is the Chief Nurse for Adult Social Care. Email:  Twitter: @sturdy_deborah

About Gillian Keegan MP

Gillian Keegan is the MP for Chichester and was appointed Minister for Care and Mental Health at the Department of Health and Social Care in September 2021….

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About Deborah Sturdy

Deborah Sturdy was appointed interim Chief Nursing Officer for Adult Social Care in in December 2020, before taking on the role permanently in September 2021. She was previously Director of Health & W…

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ellbeing at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, and has worked with older people in both health and social care throughout her career in a number of roles including clinical practice, management and research.

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