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This month Joe Meets…

by Joe Caretalk

Each month I get up close with key stakeholders in social care. This month I met Rachael Anstee, Partner and Health & Social Care specialist at Hazlewoods.

How did your career lead you to becoming a Partner at Hazlewoods and specialising in Health and Social care?

I joined Hazlewoods as a trainee many years ago – more years ago than I want to admit !  I trained and qualified at the firm and moved into the Healthcare team not long after, which was in its infancy at the time. Over the last 20 years or so the team has gone from strength to strength, acting for operators in the social care sector on a nationwide basis, and in all subsectors of healthcare.

Do you enjoy working and providing specialist advice to the sector?

At the risk of sounding trite, I feel passionate about helping care operators receive quality financial advice.  Given the sector is experiencing such cost pressures, it is more important than ever to have an accountant and tax advisor that is invested in your financial future, and is looking at ways of improving your financial performance and reducing your tax burden. 

What are your biggest challenges when providing care operators with advice in the current market?

Operators are usually loyal to their existing accountants – even if they aren’t giving them the advice that they deserve !   A challenge is to speak to those operators and highlight the areas where we can add value – for example preparing their business for a future sale as substantial amounts of tax can be forfeited without the right planning.

The sector currently faces a crisis in the form of huge losses of staff and a difficulty in recruiting replacements. Is there any more the government or providers themselves can do to change this?

The recently announced retention and recruitment fund will help in the short term, but clearly isn’t a long-term fix.  However, it doesn’t help resolve the long-term challenge of attracting more workers into the care sector and paying them what they deserve. Until Government treat the care sector with the same respect that the NHS is given, I fear that little will change.

In September the government announced its plans for social care reforms. What impact do you think this will have on providers going forward and will the new tax plans solve the challenges they are battling with?

It is encouraging that we have recently seen the long-awaited White Paper on social care reform and although a long term strategy is welcome, it doesn’t tackle the short term challenges that are being faced.  I have recently spoken with clients who have waiting lists but have had to stop taking in new residents as they can’t get enough/the right calibre of individuals to staff the home safely.

The Government’s introduction of a cap on social care costs seems like a step in the right direction but do you think its gone far enough to stabilise the current system?

It is a start but I think there is more to do – what many people wont realise is that the £86k cap is only based on the local authority rate.  For example, if your family member is in a care home where the fee is £900 per week (private rate) and the local authority rate is £650, it is only the £650 that counts towards the cap.  Under the proposals a family are still likely to pay much more than £86k for a loved ones long term care costs and I fear that this isn’t going to make as much of a difference to families with modest savings as the press have suggested

As we begin 2022, despite the challenges of the last 2 years, are there any opportunities for social care providers going forward?

We are seeing some smaller, dated homes leaving the market – particularly where the homes are fully local authority funded – and an increase in purpose-built provision.  That being said, I still have many clients at the smaller end of the market who are providing a quality service and generating a good return – I don’t imagine that it going to change any time soon.  Banks are still keen on the sector and there is access to capital to fund growth and development opportunities for all size of provider. Also, there is increased interest in specialist care (children’s residential, learning disabilities, supported living) where demand is strong.

Finally, Hazlewoods have been a key long-term supporter of The Great British Care Awards and The Learning Disability and Autism Awards. How important is it to pay tribute to social care staff after the turbulence of the last 2 years?

It is lovely to see care staff attending these events and celebrating the sector.  They deserve to let their hair down after such a difficult 2 years !

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