The Government must step in before staffing shortages overwhelm social care, leaders in the sector have warned health and social care secretary Sajid Javid.
The National Care Forum (NCF), which represents not-for-profit care providers, and Unison, the largest union representing social care employees, have today written to Mr Javid calling for ‘urgent action’.
The letter said: ‘Care providers are already having to hand back contracts, turn down new requests for care, at home and in care homes, as a direct result of the acute shortage of workers.
‘This country cannot afford to lose any more care staff. Each and every one of us has a loved one who may well need their skill, support and compassion, or require help themselves eventually. Please don’t ignore this catastrophe a moment longer.’
The ‘recruitment and retention emergency’ pushing the sector to the ‘brink’ has been ’triggered by chronic underfunding leading to low wages, staff burnout and mandatory vaccination,’ it added.
The signatories also repeated calls for the Government to scrap or delay the mandatory jabs policy in care homes in England, which comes into force on 11 November. Unions warned last month that social care staff are leaving their posts rather than receive the required Covid-19 jabs.
This comes as part of a series of recommendations to tackle workforce shortages first published yesterday by the NCF, alongside the Outstanding Managers network, a representative body. They also called on the Government to:
- Fund a pay increase for care workers.
- Introduce a retention bonus for social care staff who have worked throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Add care workers to the Shortage Occupation List for a temporary period. Roles on the list give people an advantage in obtaining a skilled worker visa.
- Create a fully funded, flexible dedicated workforce fund to support the wellbeing of existing staff and supporting recruitment and retention.
The NCF and Unison took the ‘unprecedented step’ of contacting Mr Javid because of daily reports of ‘serious workers shortages’ from care providers and staff, they said separately.
The letter also comes ahead of the spending review, where the Government will set out the money it will spend on public services and departments, on 27 October.
Christina McAnea, Unison general secretary, 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.’
In August, an NCF survey of more than 2,000 social care services found 74% of providers have seen an increase in staff exits since April 2021, with 50% of workers leaving due to stress and 44% finding better pay elsewhere.