The Public Accounts Committee has heard evidence on the social care workforce, with ADASS’ Vice President, Glen Garrod, appearing before the panel.

The panel opened with some discussion of the scrutiny that local authorities face when commissioning services from providers. Anne Marie Morris MP, a member of the Committee, claimed local authorities needed to have similar mechanisms to health bodies to enforce effective commissioning.

“Whereas in care, while there is the CQC to look at the providers, the commissioners – the local authorities – which have the responsibility for delivering a lot more than just social care are not overseen – they’re not held to account,” the MP argued.

The Director General at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said that such a move would not necessarily lead to more efficient or effective care, a view backed by the Permanent Secretary to the Department of Health and Social Care, Chris Wormald, who said that they “were looking at the commissioning side, but that inspections were not necessarily the answer.”  

There were also discussions on the regulations around the social care workforce, including a focused back-and-forth on hourly rates, turnover and vacancy rates. Sharon Allen, the Chief Executive of Skills for Care, highlighted the pay issues within the sector, arguing that “it’s a source of national shame that we talk about this sector as a minimum wage workforce.”

ADASS has previously responded to concerns about pay levels within the sector when they were raised through a report by the National Audit Office. In a written response, ADASS argued that behind the issues with pay were the lack of a long-term funding solution for social care proposed by government. “The lack of a sustainable funding solution impacts upon the fees which local authorities can pay to providers. This in turn has an effect upon the wages offered to care staff and the availability of learning and development opportunities which are two of the key issues to recruitment and retention.”

The Association went further, arguing that “at a time when much focus is being placed upon creating sustainable health and social care systems, adult social care and its workforce needs to be recognised as an equal partner and with a value in its own right, not just as ancillary to health care.”

Summarising the ADASS case and the views on the future of the sector, Glen Garrod, Vice President of ADASS, highlighted the impact of effective training and development not just on retention but on ensuring wards can remain secure, and said: “Our sector, as a strategic partner, now provides training and mentoring for those unit managers, and if CQC were in the room today they would tell you that well led, equals safe.”

In response to whether local social care markets could be shaped, Vice President Garrod said that matter came back to the need for long-term funding in adult social care, and concluded; “If you’re in a council that is experiencing severe constraints financially, I think there is a question about whether there is sufficient resources within councils…you will prioritise frontline resources.”

Watch the full session of the Public Accounts Committee at Parliament TV here.