£600 million social care winter workforce and capacity boost

£600 million over the next two years will boost the capacity of the social care workforce and funding for the social care sector

  • Funding comes as ministers and NHS England set out priorities for winter planning
  • £10million per year programme will enhance research into adult social care and inform future policies for social care

The government has today unveiled a £600 million package to help with recruitment and retention in social care. The fund will support the social care workforce and boost capacity in social care, in turn supporting the NHS ahead of winter and through into next year.

This week the Care Minister is also writing to local authorities about preparations for winter, and NHS England has written to NHS organisations encouraging contingency planning to prepare for winter demands on the health service. The government is encouraging local health and care systems to prepare jointly for the winter months earlier this year, increasing resilience and preparedness for seasonal viruses such as flu or Covid.

The £600 million funding for adult social care includes a £570 million workforce fund over two years, distributed to local authorities and £30 million funding for local authorities in the most challenged health systems. This funding follows the social care workforce reforms announced earlier this year, and works, alongside the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, to build a stronger overall foundation for the health and social care workforce.  It will help to improve recruitment and retention, boost workforce capacity and ensure a sustainable social care workforce fit for the future. A stronger care system will better meet care needs around the country and support the NHS for future winters, preventing admission to hospital and helping people to be discharged from hospital more quickly, cutting waiting times for A&E and ambulances.

Minister for Care, Helen Whately said:

"Hundreds of thousands of older people, disabled people and their carers depend day in, day out on our social care workforce. Care workers deserve a brighter spotlight to recognise and support what they do. That’s why we’re reforming social care careers and backing our brilliant care workforce with millions in extra funding.

"Our workforce reforms will help more people pursue rewarding careers in social care with nationally recognised qualifications. Our investment in social care means more funding to go to the front line. This matters, because support for our care workforce is the key to more care and better care.

"A stronger social care system, hand in hand with our NHS, will help people get the care they need, when and where they need it."

The multi-million-pound investment will deliver tangible improvements to care and support services, benefitting millions working in or supported by care. It builds on progress the government has already made on workforce reforms set out in the Next Steps to Put People at the Heart of Care plan - backed by an initial £250million - which will enable better recognition of social care as a profession.

This includes ultimately working towards flexible, integrated career pathways between health and social care, in-line with the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan.

Melanie Weatherley MBE, Chair of Care Association Alliance said:

"We are delighted to welcome the announcement of additional funding to support the adult social care workforce. It is particularly pleasing that this support covers two years, enabling the sector to develop effective longer-term initiatives."

Cllr Martin Tett, County Councils Network Spokesperson for Adult Social Care said:

"The County Councils Network (CCN) very much welcomes this timely announcement by the government. The network called for this remaining funding to be provided directly to councils as soon as possible to help tackle additional inflationary costs and demand pressures which are impacting social care services this year and next.

"With funding split over two years this will help councils mitigate some of the financial and workforce pressures over the next 18 months. It is also positive that the funding will be distributed through the existing Market Sustainability & Improvement Fund without further administrative burdens."

Oonagh Smyth, CEO of Skills for Care, said:

"Support for local authorities to improve capacity in social care will help ensure that we can attract and keep more of the right people with the right skills. This is vitally important because our latest figures show that there were around 152,000 vacancies on any given day in 2022-23. Improved capacity ultimately means a better experience for the people who draw on care and support."

Alongside NHSE’s letter to the NHS, DHSC has issued letters to local adult social care systems and providers to share the government’s priorities for adult social care this winter, and to highlight the key actions local systems and care providers should take to protect individuals, their carers and the sector as a whole. This is to ensure a ‘whole system’ approach is taken to plan for the colder months and put adult social care on as firm a footing as possible ahead of winter this year.

Of the £600 million from the Next Steps to Put People at the Heart of Care plan, £570 million will be given to local authorities as ‘flexible’ funding to allow them to tailor it to benefit local needs. This could be by increasing the fees given to care providers, which will enable better pay for care workers, driving tangible improvements to social care for those who draw on it, or reduce pressures on the health system by increasing the capacity of social care and helping to bolster the sector ahead of winter.

In addition, as part of the government’s initiative to improve care for everyone across the country, the National Institute for Health and Care Research has today launched a new £10 million per year funding programme focused on social care research. The Research Programme for Social Care will collect information on the people at the heart of care, providing government and the sector with clear paths on how they can improve, expand and strengthen social care for people in need of care, carers, the social care workforce, and the public.

The new programme aligns with the department’s new innovation and improvement unit, which is working with sector partners to establish clear priorities for innovation and research across adult social care. When fully established, the unit will look at how research can inform all aspects of policymaking and delivery of care across the sector, to ensure we learn from best practice and promote new approaches to care that can improve outcomes for the people at the heart of it.

Department of Health and Social Care
Helen Whately MP