A £10 million increase in funding for social care has been described as a “sticking plaster” that won’t cover a massive funding gap.
The additional money for the sector was announced by Rebecca Evans, AM, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Social Services and Public Health.
The announcement was welcomed by Care Forum Wales chairman Mario Kreft MBE but he warned it was nowhere near enough.
According to the Welsh Government, the new investment will form part of a three-way agreement to be established between the Welsh Government, local government and social care employers to work together to create a more stable social care workforce.
They say the funding will help meet the extra costs associated with the introduction of the national living wage and that it is in addition to the extra £25 million for social care, which was announced in the draft 2017-18 Budget in October.
But Mr Kreft said: “Any extra funding to a sector in meltdown is to be welcomed but in reality it is a sticking plaster which will fail to plug the massive funding gap.
“Care providers welcome Welsh Government’s recognition of the pressures the introduction of the national living wage has placed on the sector.
“We all want to see care workers better rewarded for the vital service they provide and the increasing professionalization of the workforce as we move towards registration.
But in two years since October 2015 we will have seen the minimum pay rates of our care workers increase by 12 per cent. We estimate the cost of this to be at least £80 million.
“It will also have a knock on effect across the board because it will be impossible to maintain pay differentials as we would like.
“We are pleased that Welsh Government see have prioritised social care as a sector of national strategic importance but there needs to be recognition the sector remains under pressure.
“The on-going demands of the national living wage increases and registration mean that the value we place on the sector and the funding it receives will need to be revisited as work together with our partners in Welsh Government, local authorities and health boards to make it sustainable.”
“In the meantime, this extra funding should be ring-fenced so we can ensure local authorities spend it on social care.
“The sector is not strong and this will make it neither sustainable nor fit for the future.
“My view is that we need the new regional partnership boards with equal partners sitting round the table, to be effective, working with a new spirit of collaboration. They must be more than talking shops – they must deliver.”
Rebecca Evans said: “In Wales, we have prioritised social care as a sector of national strategic importance.
“Tens of thousands of people rely on these vital services every day. We know that the sector is crucial to the effective running of the wider healthcare system, which is why we are supporting the integration of health and social care through our £60m Intermediate Care Fund.
“We have engaged with our social care partners to understand the issues facing the sector – the financial impact of implementing the UK Government’s national living wage has emerged as a primary concern.
“I am today confirming the Welsh Government will provide a further £10m a year to help manage the impact of the national living wage. This will also support work to create a fully registered workforce by 2022.
“This investment underpins a joint commitment between partners – we will provide funding, local authorities will invest in service provision and employers will create a more valued workforce, reducing the high turnover in staff currently experienced.”
The Minister also announced that the maximum amount people can be charged for homecare and other non-residential care will increase from £60 a week to £70 from April 2017.
The uplift will complement the extra £10m-a-year investment, ensuring care across Wales continues to be of good quality. The rise reflects the need to invest in domiciliary care and takes account of inflation over the two-year period that the current £60 maximum charge has been in place.
It will raise more than £4m a year in additional income for local authorities to use to tackle pressures in the social care sector, including financial pressures caused by the introduction of the national living wage.
The Minister added: “Alongside our recurrent £10m investment, I have also been considering the maximum charge for domiciliary care. I believe the time is now right to uplift it.
“Taken together, these announcements will mean millions of pounds more are invested in social care every year. This will ensure we all benefit from a strong, sustainable sector that is fit for the future.”