Social care is likely facing the ‘most acute’ recruitment and retention crisis it has ever seen, and needs urgent support, the Government has been warned.
The alarm was raised in a letter sent yesterday to cabinet members by the National Care Forum (NCF) chief executive Vic Rayner, alongside leaders from four care providers – MHA Methodist Homes, the Sanctuary Group, Anchor Hanover and The Orders of St John Care Trust.
‘This is the most acute recruitment and retention crisis that we are aware of historically,’ they wrote – driven by a combination of ‘many of years of underfunding in the sector’, staff exhaustion from the Covid-19 pandemic and mandatory vaccinations driving staff to join the NHS.
These workforce issues have prevented ‘stretched’ services from ‘providing essential care’, with ‘more people’ stuck in hospital because they are ‘unable to access care packages’, they argued.
The letter also highlighted a NCF survey last month of more than 2,000 social care services, which 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.
The signatories urged the Government to invest in social care now in a series of measures:
- Offer a retention bonus to care staff
- Add care workers to the shortage occupation list for a defined period, to enable more workers from overseas to work in UK care homes with Skilled Worker visas
- Create a wholly flexible Workforce Capacity Fund now to support immediate recruitment and retention challenges. The last fund ended in March 2021.
- Extend the Infection Control Fund to offer practical support to care providers, after funding closed in June this year
- Launch an effective national recruitment campaign
They added: ‘Without the social care workforce we have no care system. Their skills and dedication, highlighted by the pandemic, have been undervalued for too long.’
The Government this month announced a 1.25% National Insurance hike to fund social care. But of the £36bn extra the Government says will be gained over the next three years, just £5.4bn is earmarked for social care in England. Instead, most funds will go towards tackling the NHS backlog.
As well as Ms Rayner, Sam Monaghan from MHA Methodist Homes, Craig Moule from the Sanctuary Group, Jane Ashcroft CBE from Anchor Hanover, and Dan Hayes from The Orders of St John Care Trust also signed the letter.