Care and support have been ‘developing haphazardly’, with the pandemic illustrating the sector should never again be ‘treated as an afterthought’.
Sarah McClinton, who has taken up the presidency of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), reflected on almost a decade of spending cuts and the pandemic’s impact on social care during her inaugural speech.
‘Our care and support has been developing haphazardly,’ McClinton said. ‘We need to stop being driven by events and be assertive about the kind of care and support we want to see. We need a plan for the future – and all of us who draw on social care, who commission it, who provide it and who regulate it can help shape that future.’
McClinton, who is director of health and adult services and deputy chief executive for the Royal Borough of Greenwich, paid tribute to the care workers – almost 1,000 in England – who lost their lives to Covid-19.
‘We have learned a huge amount collectively. Not least, the importance of achieving parity of esteem between health and social care. Social care needing to be a stronger voice around the table, so that better decisions are made and social care is never again treated as an afterthought, with such tragic consequences,’ she said.
She used her address, to the ADASS spring seminar at Wyboston Lakes in Bedfordshire, to call for ‘significant investment’ in social care to help address unmet need and tackle a rapidly worsening workforce crisis.
Vacancy rates in social care in England have grown from 5.9% in March last year to 10% last month, while ADASS analysis showed more than a half a million people were missing out on care and support, McClinton said.
‘Social care has been heroic – there has been a very big increase in the number of hours of homecare that have been delivered over recent months, but we have seen an even greater jump in the number of hours that could not be delivered because of a lack of capacity,’ she said.
‘Putting this right is vital for people waiting for care and support – without it, carers are having to take paid or unpaid leave from work or people are getting worse and ending up in hospital. That doesn’t make any sense and creates a vicious cycle.’
During her speech, she welcomed government ‘aspirations’ set out in its policy document People at the Heart of Care and its commitment to more funding through the health and care levy.
However, she said while the introduction of a cap had ‘finally grasped the nettle’ it would not fix social care. ‘And there is a danger in the developing narrative that social care is now fixed,’ she said. ‘There are immediate challenges we face over the next year – sustainability, workforce, recovery and multiple policy reform.
McClinton has replaced Stephen Chandler as president.