This emergency has highlighted the essential value of social care and public health to the wider public and this needs to be harnessed in thinking about the future of care, support and wellbeing when we look beyond the pandemic.
- Professionals across the health and care system have worked tirelessly in the most challenging of circumstances to provide care and support during the COVID-19 pandemic. This crisis has proved that all components of the system – the NHS, local government, private providers, the voluntary and community sector, carers, family, friends and neighbours – are all crucial to an effective response to the coronavirus outbreak. These components will also be vital in the event of a second wave, as well as when we come to think about what we need from a future health and care system.
- Recognition of this work must not be temporary. This emergency has highlighted the essential value of social care and public health to the wider public and this needs to be harnessed in thinking about the future of care, support and wellbeing when we look beyond the pandemic. Social care needs to be given long-term funding certainty in the same way as the NHS, and we need to consider what package of measures might be needed to properly recognise and value the social care workforce. This might include, pay, career progression, training and development.
- Government funding and liquidity measures to support councils have been welcome, as they are facing significant extra costs from the demands created by COVID-19 as well as a significant loss of income. In relation to adult social care, councils are supporting care providers who face significant additional costs in ensuring continuity of care for those who rely on their support, as well as seeking to protect staff and the people they support from infection by COVID-19, and then providing care to those who fall ill with the virus. Recent research has shown that providers of adult social care services may face more than £6.6 billion in extra costs due to the coronavirus crisis between April and September 2020. Funding must be kept under close and regular review.
- COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on many people’s mental health and wellbeing. In order to support people’s recovery and resilience, public mental health and statutory mental health services, alongside the voluntary and community sector, will need to be resourced to meet increased demand and maintain a focus on vital preventative work.
- Council public health teams are working hard to support national efforts to minimise the spread of coronavirus, protect the most vulnerable, support local businesses and bring together communities. Public health grant funding has been reduced by over £700 million in real terms between 2015/16 and 2019/20. It is crucial to invest additional resources into public health to help public health teams meet a backlog of demand for services which had to stop due to COVID-19.
- Local government’s delivery of public services during this time highlights the value of place-based leadership. It has demonstrated how national polices are best achieved with local flexibilities and councils as democratically elected leaders should be free to shape priorities with local partners to best meet the needs of their communities. With the upcoming English Devolution White Paper and this year’s Spending Review, the Government has an opportunity to reset our communities’ relationship with their Government and, in doing so, level up the inequalities faced by our communities.