Social care in crisis
Leo Sowerby, Affinity Trust’s Chief Executive, calls on the Government to address the staffing crisis that is now gripping social care.
Social care has long been a low-pay sector, with the majority of frontline workers paid only the National Minimum Wage for work which is not ‘low-skilled’ but is, in fact, highly skilled, essential to vulnerable members of our communities, and requires incredible dedication and commitment.
Low pay creates difficulty in attracting and retaining frontline support workers. This longstanding problem has been exacerbated in recent months by:
the all-time high number of job vacancies across the economy which means people have better choices than jobs on the National Minimum Wage
sectors with which social care providers compete for staff, such as hospitality and retail, significantly increasing their pay rates to fill vacancies as they re-open
Brexit reducing the pool of labour social care providers can access
covid-19 and the continued need to wear PPE all day.
While we strongly believe that our support workers should be paid more for work which requires skills, training and the right values, the year-on-year increases in the National Minimum Wage have not, generally, been matched by increases in our funding from local authorities.
The Government announcement about additional funding for health and social care implies that the NHS will receive the bulk of funding, at least for the first few years, and that the amount actually coming to social care will probably be in the region of £500m a year. If this is the case, social care will not survive long enough to benefit. Respected organisations such as the King’s Fund have calculated that social care needs an additional £10bn a year to redress the cumulative funding shortfalls over recent years.
The Government needs to recognise and address the staffing crisis that is now gripping social care, to avoid damaging consequences for vulnerable people.