The government intends to set up a bespoke occupational health portal for social care providers to help them find out more about OH and access support and providers in their local areas.
The initiative was unveiled this week as part of the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) adult social care reform white paper.
The document, People at the Heart of Care, said the portal will enable social care providers “to obtain information about occupational health, and link themselves with occupational health providers or initiatives in their area.”
Alongside this, the DHSC said it intended to design, set up and run a pilot scheme “to explore collective purchasing and subsidies of occupational health provision for small and medium-sized care providers.”
This echoes the government’s wider intentions, as outlined in its response to the Health is everyone’s business consultation published in the summer, to develop and pilot a subsidy model to make access to OH more of a viable option for small businesses and people who are self-employed.
Other workplace health and wellbeing initiatives for the social care sector outlined in the document include investment in more one-to-one counselling for care workers and more group mental health support, including facilitated peer support and online services.
Social care sector
The intention is also to expand access to mental health first aid training for line managers within the sector and more coaching support around psychological wellbeing and resilience.
The document said the focus on wellbeing and occupational health aimed “to provide immediate relief from burnout, trauma and mental illness”.
The DHSC added: “We want to work with local authorities and care providers to reduce mental and physical sickness, and develop a more positive experience for everyone working in social care.
“We want this new funding to kick-start a focus on wellbeing. We will work closely with the sector to evaluate the success for wider roll-out and establish a culture that focuses on employee wellbeing. We will also promote an awareness campaign and use the digital hub to make our offer more accessible.”
However, beyond the government’s previously announced ‘catch-up programme’ for the NHS and social care, the white paper has been criticised for its lack of detail on how all this new activity will be funded.
Disability Rights UK argued that the white paper had “failed to address the fundamental crisis in social care”, with the extra funding already promised “tiny” in comparison to what was needed.
Sally Warren, director of policy at the health think-tank The King’s Fund, added that the document didn’t “go fast or far enough” and that “the funding allocated to deliver it is insufficient”.