techUK welcome Government announcement on funding boost for adult social care workforce

26 Oct 2021 01:14 PM

On October 21 the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced £162.5 million to help improve workforce retention and recruitment in adult social care services.

Funding will be used to strengthen local recruitment initiatives and better support the existing workforce and will be available until March 2022.

Minister for Care Gillian Keegan has said, “This funding will help care providers recruit and retain staff, supporting both those already making a difference while bringing in new colleagues to help. Everyone deserves to be cared for with dignity and respect. This funding, as well as our wider reforms, will bring us closer to a world-leading social care system.”

While techUK warmly welcomes the additional funding, further detail of how this will be allocated is needed. techUK is calling for a focus on digital skills for the social care workforce. Equipping and upskilling the social care workforce with the required digital skills is essential to enable the work force to utilise systems, understand the data they need and supporting those living at home to live more independently.

The Nuffield Trust’s recent report on developing the digital skills of the social care workforce highlighted that as health and social care settings are using digital technologies increasingly, they “hold significant potential to enable skills development by enabling care staff to take on new responsibilities or to undertake tasks more efficiently.” 

The report found that digital skills have positive consequences on broader skills development as well as creating fertile ground for greater integration of health and social care. It made the case for more investment and joint working to ensure that the use of digital health technologies in social care settings is seen as a joint responsibility and priority between health and social care services.

Earlier in the year NHSX published the tech plan for health and care, acknowledging that technology has the potential to deliver significant system-wide benefits for people in care and care professionals. This plan highlighted that the social care sector is facing its own challenges in reaping the benefits of digitisation. According to the tech plan, around a third of social care organisations are still largely paper based, with less than 10 per cent of carers able to digitally view or update care records. This paper-based approach continues to obstruct integration between health and social care, with only 29 per cent of social care professionals surveyed reporting that they have digital access to the information they need from health care providers.

There is a clear case for the additional Government funding to be spent in part on helping social care staff acquire and improve digital skills in order to improve not only retention and recruitment via opportunities for growth and development, but to improve quality of care as well.

In February 2021, techUK published the Ten Point Plan for Healthtech to outline recommendations for how we can drive progress. With the help and collaboration of our health and social care members, we called for the Department of Health and Social Care, the Department for Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities, NHSX, and local authorities to support the integration of social care through digital transformation. The Plan also recognised that low levels of familiarity with digital were currently limiting the potential of digital transformation to change how care is delivered. With white papers on adult social care reform and integration expected in November 2021, techUK’s Social Care Working Group will be looking to respond to these publications.