A reform 10 years in the making, the Health and Care Act 2022 is finally here. It comes at a time when the Social Workers industry is facing some of its greatest challenges. Let’s take a closer look at some of the major Act changes, as well as consider how they impact UK Social Workers.
Shifting the Focus from Competition to Collaboration
One of the major aims of the Health and Care Act 2022 is to increase collaboration amongst the NHS, local government, partners, and communities. Rather than competing, the Act seeks to foster working relationships between these stakeholders through the implementation of an integrated care system (ICS) across England.
The ICS is made up of two parts:
1. Integrated care board (ICB)
2. Integrated care partnership (ICP)
ICBs commission oversees most NHS services and reports back to NHS England on spending and performance. ICPs bring together a wider range of partners, including the NHS and local providers, authorities, and other partners to service a population’s healthcare needs by location.
While it means much greater collaboration between constituencies, the ICS policy also gives local leaders flexibility in how they set up their arrangements. This should allow healthcare staff and Social Workers to target their care to a population according to their unique needs.
The ICB structure also introduces a public involvement and consultation requirement in the planning and development of healthcare services, specifically for carers and representatives of people receiving these services. This means those who are most affected finally have a direct say in their care.
In theory, the integrated structure also enhances the patient and Social Worker experience, improving a system of communication and enabling better interactions between all departments within it.
While the legislation is a step in the right direction, how it works in practice largely depends on the commitment of local organisations, the NHS, and clinical teams to build and nurture professional relationships.
Care Cost Caps
From October 2023, the government will:
1. Introduce an £86,000 care costs cap, meaning no one will ever pay more than that for their care needs across their lifetime
2. Give self-funding care home residents the right to have their care arranged by local authorities
3. Ensure councils pay providers a ‘fair rate for care’
4. Increase the rates for the means-tested care charging system
These reforms mean many more people will now be eligible for care and social work services as they need to be assessed, planned for, and reviewed. With an influx of patients comes a demand for more Social Workers – which is great news if you’re newly qualified and looking for your first job opportunity.
Enhanced Social Worker Training
The Department of Health and Social Care is attempting to address a surge in demand for Social Workers by allocating £500m over the next three years to the workforce. Some will go towards improving training for child and adult Social Workers, from qualification right through to post-qualification support (including approved Mental Health Professional Accreditation).
There is also the potential for the introduction of an Integrated Skills Passport, giving Social Workers and other health and care staff the chance to transfer their gained skills, knowledge and training between the NHS, public health, and social care.
Lastly, the Act also introduces mandatory learning disability and Autism training for all staff.
New Information Sharing Standards
Another important addition to the Act centres on the introduction of mandatory information standards. All health and social care commissioners and providers will need to comply with them.
The aim is to ensure there’s a standardised approach to collecting, storing, and processing data, making it easier for Social Workers to not only access data but use it effectively to help and support their patients.
That covers four of the most important amendments to the Act, along with ways they can impact your Social Worker duties. If you’d like to view the changes in their entirety, you can visit the government’s website.
As a specialist social work recruitment agency, we currently have many clients in urgent need of both new and experienced Social Workers. If you’re on the hunt for your first role, interested in finding out about fresh opportunities, or would simply like some further support in understanding the impacts of the Health and Care Act 2022 on your job, please feel free to connect with one of our experts today.