The Nuffield Trust, which is an independent UK health think tank, recently conducted a study into peoples’ perception of care workers in the UK. Findings from the study have been published in a research report titled, ‘New horizons: What can England learn from the professionalisation of care workers in other countries?’. The report states that the primary perception that people have of care workers in England is that they are ‘unskilled’ workers. This is despite the pandemic highlighting how vital they are to the health and social care sector.
The report goes on to state other findings on how changing our perception of care workers could be the key to helping resolve the crisis that the care sector is currently facing in England. The report states the following:
- Mandatory minimum training, registration and professional regulation has helped reduce risks to the public and improved outcomes for people using services. It has also improved confidence in and driven up standards in the workforce, in other UK Countries.
- Care worker retention is higher where they receive relevant, high-quality training. They are also better equipped with skills and confidence to deliver higher quality care.
- Increasing pay to make the sector more competitive helps reduce staff turnover.
From these findings, it was gleaned that the working terms and conditions of England’s care workers are in desperate need of reform. The working terms and pay need to better reflect the important role that care workers have in society and the value of their work, as highlighted by the pandemic.
The report suggests that based on other countries’ experiences, any measures taken to professionalise the sector and alter basic working terms and conditions must be designed and implemented together rather than introduced in isolation.
Additionally, as there is a high percentage of ethnic minority workers working in the care sector in England, reforming wages could be a catalyst in tackling pay inequality and poverty in the country.
While a number of reforms have already been introduced to the sector, there is a perception that policy-makers can still go further in order to get to the heart of tacking the recruitment and retention crisis that the care sector is currently facing.