The past few years have made all of us acutely aware of our health, and that of our loved ones. For decades we’ve known the social care system needs to be fairer and more integrated. Successive governments have tried and failed to bring about reform, as any policy that affects people’s health and wealth so dramatically is always going to be a challenge to change. Now, as the Minister for Care and Mental Health, I’ve been tasked with this challenge.
To do it we’re introducing a range of reforms, including a sustainable funding model in the Health and Social Care Levy. It raises around £12 billion per year on average for health and social care across the UK over the next three years. This includes funding to help tackle the backlog caused by Covid-19, plus £5.4 billion will be invested in adult social care to deliver system reform. One of the biggest challenges facing the sector is the ever increasing need for more staff, at least £500 million from the levy will be used to improve recruitment, retention, progression, and staff wellbeing within the care sector.
Through the Health and Care Bill we’re introducing new Integrated Care Boards and Partnerships (ICBs), which will bring together the care sector, NHS, Local Government, and other partners including the voluntary and community sector. Based on an amendment put forward by Lord Bradley, we’re also including mental health professionals on the ICBs.
Work is ongoing to better involve and support carers of all kinds including unpaid carers. Currently, a tenth of adults in the UK provide unpaid care for a friend or family member. ICBs locally will have a duty to involve carers when care is being commissioned for their loved one. Plus, increased support to help them carry out their caring roles. We’re investing £25 million to support unpaid carers, including respite, breaks, and peer group and wellbeing support.
This work is so important as we are living longer and with more complex health needs. The reforms we’re introducing will provide better support for all carers, and create an integrated, fair, accessible system. Although the task ahead seems daunting, I feel privileged to have been handed the challenge.