• Autism at Kingwood represents #BetterPay4SocialCare at the Conservative Party Conference

    Well it hasn’t been a typical week, not least of all as it involved a train journey to Manchester as Autism at Kingwood represented #BetterPay4SocialCare at the Conservative Party Conference.  A fringe meeting event was organised by the Future Social Care Coalition aptly titled, Time for a Social Care Plan.

    The event was chaired by Damien Green MP, Chair of the APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) for Adult Social Care and included Gillian Keegan MP, the new-in-post Minister for Care and Mental Health, who is responsible for delivering the recently announced Build Back Better plan for Health & Social Care.

    Although Gillian reiterated the commitment for social care reform, disappointingly the plan focuses on supporting the NHS initially; which means we may not see changes for another 3 years.  She did confirm that part of the intended social care reform priority will be the professionalism of the sector.

    While everyone in the sector welcomed this, we – and all the other speakers – made it clear that the priority had to be increased funding from local authorities to enable better pay for all care workers.

    I explained to Gillian how most local authority funded social care providers desperately want to pay their social care staff a minimum of the Real Living Wage, but are not given sufficient funds to do so – as illustrated by our infographic.  I asked Gillian if she agreed with us that funding for social care pay must be a priority and that we need it NOW – not in 3 years.

    Gillian responded: ‘We recognise the issues facing the sector. The Government has finally gripped the issue.’ I also made sure Gillian had a copy of the infographic as she left.

    Teresa Exelby of Community Integrated Care, spoke of her concern about staff retention and believes this will become harder still as we head into winter.

    Chris Woodhead of Dimensions agreed.

    Kevin Hollinrake MP and officer for the APPG of Social Care said ‘Local authority funding is obviously too low… This underlines the need for proper funding.’  Kevin described himself of a ‘fan’ of the Real Living Wage.

    Cllr. Izzie Seccombe, Leader of the Local Government Association Group, also stressed that more central government investment needed to be allocated to social care. She said ‘We need to value the workforce now and those we want to welcome in the future… As someone in local government what I want to see is a workforce which is empowered, paid, and have career fulfilment.’

    Ultimately, everything and everyone came back to pay and we very much hope that Gillian takes this on board.  We urged her to listen and reach out to the social care sector and she said she would. Gillian encouraged the #BetterPay4SocialCare group to keep the campaign going, and Kevin Hollingrake MP thanked us for our input. We are therefore keeping the petition live until we hit 10,000 signatures and then will send the names of everyone who has supported this vital and influential petition to Rishi Sunak, ahead of his announcement of the Spending Review and Budget later this month.

    Abi Cowley

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