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What will 2017 look like for the Education & Social Care sectors?

2016 will be remembered as a year of unexpected change across the globe.

With the upcoming Brexit and the invocation of Article 50 through to Trump’s inauguration as President of the USA, 2017 is already proving to be a year of change and uncertainty.
Both the Education and Social Care sectors had been subject to much scrutiny throughout the course of 2016, where issues including budget cuts and staff shortages were brought to the forefront. What will 2017 hold for both sectors?

 

Education

Funding continues to present itself as a key issue within the UK education sector. At the start of the year, unions revealed that every constituency would lose yet more funding under the Schools Funding Plan. The National Audit office have observed that schools face cuts of £3 billion. This comes amidst the continuing teacher shortages and increasing class sizes that were prevalent topics throughout the course of 2016.

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Education Secretary Justine Greening has defended the funding cuts, announcing a new funding formula to be rolled out from 2018-19 and stating that it would resolve any “unfair” and “inconsistent” funding levels. NUT General Secretary Kevin Courtney warned of overcrowded classrooms and staff cuts, with schools “on their knees trying to make ends meet.” Some schools in West Sussex have considered modifying school hours to four days per week, in an attempt to reduce costs.

Meanwhile, the Department for Education published a GCSE performance table this year, which upended the traditional pecking order of England’s secondary schools as a result of Progress 8 being the new performance measure. This new model, focusing on improvement compared to attainment, saw grammar schools being knocked off the top spots across the country; whether this will hinder Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans to establish new grammar schools remains to be seen. As a result of the funding cuts, existing grammar schools have begun to float the idea of asking parents to make voluntary contributions, as the government attempts to reallocate funds to more deprived areas.

In preparation for Brexit, Theresa May also plans to establish “Institutes of Technology;” schools specialising in maths to be in each British city over the coming years, in partnership with leading universities. The Higher Education sector has also been affected by Brexit, with applications to UK institutions by EU citizens declining by 7% this academic year. In addition to this, there has also been a reported exodus of lecturers in the UK from EU countries.

 

Social Care

It is widely acknowledged that the UK Social Work system is stretched to its limits; demand for care is growing much faster than the supply of available resources, mainly due to the fact that life expectancy has increased substantially since 1948, with more complex diseases requiring co-ordinated health and social care. This means that it will become increasingly difficult for current standards of care to be maintained and budgets to be balanced. 

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Since the establishment of the NHS in 1948, the budget for health care has been ring-fenced, coming mostly from national taxation, whereas social care is paid for by local authorities through central government grants, council tax and user charges, meaning levels of spending vary across the country. Some have argued that in order to increase the budget for social care, council tax should be raised, however this notion has been met with much controversy amongst the public. The most recent example of this is evident in the case of Surrey County Council, where a rise of 15% had been scrapped.

There has been much talk about the need for health and social care budgets to be merged, in order for each patient to get access to the care they need. The main argument follows that the same level of round-the-clock care should be afforded to a cancer patient within the health care system as a dementia patient within the social care system. At present, social care is more heavily rationed than health care and is means tested, with free care being prioritised to the more severe cases, leading to many having to pay for their own care. 

In 2016, Greater Manchester became the first Local Authority in the country to take control of its health and social care budgets. It remains to be seen whether other Local Authorities will follow suit and this could perhaps be a key point of discussion in the new financial year.

The health care think tank, The King’s Fund, made many suggestions regarding the future of health and social care in the Barker Commission report in 2015, their conclusion being that “the government must choose between finding additional resources for health and care or being honest with the public about the consequences of continuing austerity for patients and users of publicly funded social care.”

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The Children and Social Work Bill will have a real effect on Children’s Social Care as we know it, with hopes to drive up standards within the profession. The bill will allow the government to directly regulate social workers, or set up a government-controlled body for social workers to replace the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) as its regulator. The government have suggested that this new regulator will have a “relentless focus” on the profession, as the HCPC regulate a total of 16 professions. The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) have raised the issue that this shift to government regulation may be dictated by short-term political priorities as opposed to the profession’s evidence-based approach. 

Other potential changes may concern how assessments are carried out and social work training. An example of this is through the new accreditation scheme which is due to come into effect this year, with a focus on professional development. The aim is for the scheme to evolve by responding to new evidence and approaches in order to create the best outcomes for children and their families. 

A prevalent debate in children’s social care is whether too many children are removed from their families, rather than receiving ongoing support and rehabilitation. It has been suggested that the launch of the What Works Centre will alleviate this. The What Works Centre will seek to establish common models of service across both child protection and children in care work, in order to create a unified approach to roll out across the UK.

 

What next?

At Tempest, we would love to hear your thoughts on how you think the Education and Social Work sectors will be affected over the coming year.
Feel free to get in touch with one of our specialist consultants on 0203 651 3181 to discuss market updates and to share your thoughts.