On Tuesday 16 January, Alternative Futures Group attended the parliamentary launch of the Sector Pulse Check Report for 2023 at Westminster.
As one of the 122 respondent organisations, we welcomed the findings and recommendations of the report which continues to shine the spotlight on the financial and workforce pressures faced by Health & Social Care providers.
We find it deeply concerning that 2 in 5 providers reported deficits in 2023; that 79% reported that local authority fee increases did not cover the impact of National Living Wage increases in 2023; that 43% of providers had to close a part of their organisation or hand back contracts; and that 39% of providers have considered exiting the market altogether.
These are alarming statistics, but unfortunately, these aren’t surprising to us. These are issues faced by health & social care providers across the country every day, as year-on-year funding shortfalls are compounded by continued underfunding to the sector by central government.
The report also highlights the disparity that exists in relation to international recruitment and the government’s perception that this is the ‘silver bullet’ to resolve the workforce challenges in the sector. This is, however, not the reality for many providers where pay is kept low by commissioner funding, and the recent tightening of visa rules and changes to the Shortage Occupation rules in December to cut migration to the UK make this harder again.
The recurring and ongoing failure of central government to address under funding and structural reform is both highly irresponsible and reckless. Urgent action is required now – particularly as we approach further increased workforce costs due to the 9.8% increase in National Living Wage, coupled with inflation remaining high.
We also call on Local Authorities to play their part in prioritising and rebalancing their funding. For far too long, local authorities have provided preferential funding to Elderly Services to ease the pressure on the NHS amid the COVID pandemic. However, funding now needs to be directed towards Disability Supported Living provision which has regrettably been chronically neglected for far too long.