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Social care 'value' obvious but Treasury could still defy logic

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LGC’s essential daily briefing.

The results of research commissioned by Skills for Care, published yesterday, is a valuable addition to the debate on the future of adult social care and should provide a wake-up call to those resisting a significant upscaling of investment in the system ahead of proposed reform to establish long-term sustainability.

The report found that the total direct, indirect and induced value of the adult social care sector in the UK was estimated to be £46.2bn in 2016, with 2.6 million full-time equivalent jobs created.

In England alone the value was £38.5bn, with 2.2 milion full-time equivalent jobs representing 6% of total employment.

The research showed the 1.5 million people employed in the adult social care sector is not too far removed from those working in public administration and defence (1.6 million) and is more than sectors such as accommodation and food services (1.4 million), transport and storage (also 1.4 million) and administrative and support services (1.2 million).

The value of direct gross value added (GVA) from social care in 2016 was £21bn, the report said, which was higher than water supply and waste management (£14m) and agriculture, forestry and fishing (£7m), and not too far below electricity, gas and steam (£22bn). 

Sir Andrew Dilnot, who reviewed social care at the start of the decade, said the report proved what had been said anecdotally about the significant contribution adult social care makes to the economy. He added his hope that the report would help national policymakers to recognise a sector with 1.8 million jobs “has not just a vital social value, but a growing economic one too.”

Skills for Care chair Dame Moira Gibb pointed out that the research shows the “sector’s importance as a provider of jobs in local economies across the country where much of the money is spent.”

Paul Burstow, chair of the Social Care Institute for Excellence and an advisor to the social care green paper, notably tagged Number 10 and the Treasury when he tweeted that the report provides “compelling evidence for reframing the question about the future of social care from a drag on the economy to an economic engine, time to put some fuel in the tank.”

Focusing on the financial value of a sector that is priceless to so many may appear rather detached or even cold but political and economic reality will always require it, particularly when those holding the purse strings do so with such enthusiasm.

One person involved in the green paper process recently told LGC that “there are many economists involved”, so the contribution the sector makes to the Treasury, and the potential for increasing this revenue by bolstering the system to invest back into public services, should already be central to the government’s thinking.

That’s not to mention the common sense of avoiding a false economy by investing now to prevent major, and potentially disastrous, problems in the future.

It appears Skills for Care, motivated perhaps by the fear that the case for urgent action to maintain and strengthen services was falling on deaf ears, made a shrewd decision to make a case to those in control at the Treasury in the only language they appear to understand.

But with a lack of decisive leadership in government, coupled with reported wrangling over the value of the 70th birthday present for the NHS, the chancellor could still defy logic and choose to ignore the obvious.

Jon Bunn, senior reporter

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