The National Care Forum (NCF) and UNISON have written to Health & Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, regarding the Social Care staff shortage crisis

The letter to the Health and Social Care Secretary says they’ve taken this “unprecedented step” in response to daily reports from care providers regarding the serious worker shortages. UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said “Care employees have been undervalued and ignored for too long. And the escalating staffing crisis is a consequence of this. It’s high time for a decent wage boost for all care workers.” Managers of community care services which support more than 15,000 people in England say the staff shortages are forcing them to turn down new clients. This means care providers are having to make tough decisions about who they can help, forcing them to be selective. A survey by the NCF and The Outstanding Mangers Network estimates that approximately 5,000 people have been turned away from care since 1st September 2021. The knock on effect of this, according to health bosses is that the care shortage means patients judged fit to go home or to be discharged are being held in hospital.

The government is promising extra money to train and recruit new social care workers in an effort to solve the staff shortage crisis. The context behind the staff shortages is that following on from the pandemic staff are facing a burnout following a heavy work period, mandatory vaccinations have not helped staff levels, Brexit has limited the pool of potential recruitment, the low level of pay, and limited job promotion prospects means people have decided to look into other industries instead. For example, hospitality and retail industries pay a similar wage, whilst having the benefits of reduced responsibility and increased chance of career progression. Researchers for National Care Forum (NCF) together with the Outstanding Managers Network questioned 340 managers, who revealed the seriousness of the situation, with many staff currently struggling and wanting to quit, potentially fuelling the crisis further. The findings also demonstrated that nearly a fifth of care home positions are vacant, with backroom staff having to fill in as frontline carers to ease the burden. This burden and staff shortage, has meant that managers have had to hand home-care contracts back to local councils. Hospitals are also alarmed at the knock on effect this is having on them, and with a difficult winter ahead, managers fear that staff will continue to be exhausted and increased numbers could exit the sector, spiralling the staff shortage crisis further.

In order to tempt staff and fill the vacancies, providers and managers are trying to increase wages to compete, but fear for the financial viability of this as they do not have any increased funding. NCF chief executive Vic Rayner said the findings were “uncomfortable reading, and offer evidence of the stark reality” social care faces. She further added, “Providers are having to make difficult decisions about who they can support, sometimes resulting in people with high and complex needs not getting access to the care and support they desperately need.” A Department of Health and Social Care official has said the government was providing at least £500 million to support the care workforce as part of the new £5.4 billion to reform social care. The NCF is calling on the government to act now with the following measures: To solve the staff shortage crisis, a retention bonus should be offered for existing staff to recognise their efforts in the last 18 months; a pay increase to aid recruitment and reduce the numbers leaving; adding care workers to the Shortage Occupation list for a limited time; and delay the implementation of mandatory vaccinations in care homes. All of which will ease the burden on the social care sector regarding this current staffing crisis.

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