Social care staff deserve ‘much better’ from the Government, which has failed to deliver its promised workforce strategy, MPs have warned.
A Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report, released today, urged the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to produce a social care workforce strategy that tackles low pay and high turnover, supports career development and aligns care with the NHS – three years after the DHSC initially vowed to do so.
Any findings from DHSC research into the registered nurse role in care homes, as revealed by chief social care nurse Professor Deborah Sturdy in April, must also be ‘quickly addressed’, it added. At the time, Professor Sturdy accepted ‘quite a lot’ must be done to portray care home work as a ‘positive choice’.
Committee chair Meg Hillier MP said: ‘Carers, younger and older adults needing care, and home care have seen decades of neglect, and the 1.5 million who work in care deserve much better. We cannot afford more broken commitments on care.’
Overall, the PAC concluded the Covid-19 pandemic’s ‘devastating impact on the care sector’ has emphasised ‘care is not properly funded, lacks transparency and urgently needs reform’. Reform has still not occurred despite government promising it for 20 years, it added.
Many social care providers are ‘at risk of failing’ because of Covid-19 costs and the drop of care home occupancy – from around 90% at the start of the pandemic to 80% in February 2021 – because of excess deaths in care homes and fewer admissions, it warned.
MPs added that providers have been left living ‘hand to mouth’, and unable to take long-term decisions, because most local authorities are paying them below the costs of care following funding cuts.
The PAC accepted the DHSC has provided ‘welcome, significant support’ to help providers through Covid-19, such as £1.4bn through its infection control fund to adult social care providers, but stressed providers needed additional support to move beyond the pandemic.
RCN interim director of nursing, policy and public affairs Jude Diggins said: ‘Chronic staffing shortages in social care cannot be rectified until there is a funded workforce plan in place, and staff receive at least the same terms and conditions as they would get in the NHS.’
‘This is one of the most important ways to attract more nursing staff to this area and give residents and clients the quality care we would want for our own loved ones.’
This comes after healthcare leaders expressed disappointment the Queen’s Speech last month contained little detail on long-awaited reform, although social care minister Helen Whately later said reforms to the sector would be brought forward this year and tackle workforce vacancies.
In March, a National Audit Office report found that the Department of Health and Social Care had not produced a workforce strategy for social care in England since 2009. The Government has delayed its social care green paper seven times since the first deadline of summer 2017.