Last updated: 06.04.18

Social care challenges for 2018

Social care workers should be aware of the challenges and trends they will be facing in the year to come, as this will be the best way for them to be fully prepared for their arrival.

Against the backdrop of Brexit and an ageing population, social care is under more pressure than ever. The sector is constantly having to adapt to keep up with such challenges and 2018 will see its fair share of hurdles to overcome.

From levels of funding and staff retention to government legislation, it’s vital that anyone working within the social care sector understands the changing trends.

A cash injection

The 2018-19 financial year is set to see councils receive an additional £150m to augment their social care budgets. The move was announced by communities secretary Sajid Javid, who has sourced the money from an underspend elsewhere in his department.

It comes in the wake of Northamptonshire County Council announcing it faced ‘severe financial challenges’, with social care being a particular issue, contributing to being close to effective bankruptcy. The money is to be allocated on the basis of relative needs and while it will not solve all of the problems facing the sector, it will help to ease some of the pressures.

The government’s green paper on social care for older people

By the time the summer comes around, the social care sector can expect to see a new green paper from the government published. It will focus on social care for the elderly and will promote discussion on both provision and how it will be funded.

As with all social care issues, the pressures being put on the NHS highlight care of older people as an urgent consideration. At the same time, tightening local authority budgets add another dimension and additional challenges. A sustainable system is, therefore, required and this green paper will be the latest step in the process towards finding one.

In order for the proposals it outlines to move forward, the green paper will need to achieve genuine cross-party support. Additionally, stakeholders will be required to endorse the measures and without public buy-in, all would be lost.

High levels of churn and competition with the NHS

A study by the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at King’s College London has reported a high level of churn when it comes to social workers and occupational therapists in local authorities. While the research looked at the past year, it is likely to be a trend that continues into 2018.

Despite the fact that churn can be seen as a bad thing, some of the instances of social care staff leaving their jobs is the result of positive changes. Co-author of the study, Professor Jill Manthorpe, said: 'If we want people to be managers and leaders then there will be movement'.

Where such movement is not due to promotion, the churn in social care jobs can be down to a number of factors. Despite pay being above the National Living Wage, some people believe it is not high enough considering the workload and others believe they are not valued in their roles.

In addition to this, the research highlighted that the social care sector is in direct competition with the NHS for workers. Occupational therapists in particular can be tempted to work for the NHS once qualified, despite social care providers having invested the funds for them to train.

GDPR preparation is vital

Among the most important changes that social care workers need to know about in 2018 is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This new piece of legislation is a Europe-wide initiative that is due to come into effect on May 25th and will impact many areas of business and work, with social care among them.

In practice, GDPR is designed to protect individuals and ensure that their data is not put at risk. As social care involves potentially sensitive data, it is particularly important that everyone within the sector follows the protocols and ensures that they do not put themselves or the body they work for at risk of a large fine.

Therefore, as a social care professional, you are required to understand the importance of GDPR and along with your employer, be sure not to flout the rules. This legislation is due to be a big trend in many sectors throughout 2018, with the social care world being no exception.