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Assessing the impacts of the current staff shortages on Social Care in the UK

Staff shortage

By Rohan Fletcher

Staff shortages on Social Care

Social care for the elderly and vulnerable in the UK is facing an “unprecedented crisis” currently due to the lack of carers. Whilst the shortage is currently impacting residential and nursing homes, it is the domiciliary and homecare providers that seem worse affected by the crisis. Issues surrounding low wages, stricter immigration rules and staff burnouts in addition to the Covid pandemic are all having a huge impact on the staffing issues across the country.

Speaking with many homecare providers over the last few months the staffing issues have really been highlighted with other members of staff and even the company directors themselves being involved with delivering the care to clients, as well as growth plans having to be put on hold due to the lack of carers. This really is an issue that needs addressing immediately.

Carers switching roles

Many providers have reported recently that carers are switching jobs to become delivery drivers and supermarket workers because they do not get paid enough. E-commerce giants such as Amazon for example have been noted to provide welcome bonuses to new employees, which the vast majority of care providers in the UK just cannot afford to compete with in the current climate.

A recent report from MPs on the Health and Social Care Committee estimated that around 7.3% of roles in adult social care were vacant during 2019–20, equivalent to about 112,000 vacancies at any one time. However, around 430,000 people left jobs in adult social care during this period – citing reasons such as low pay, burnout, and poorer working benefits.

Chronic shortage

The chronic shortage throughout the last year has had very hard hitting impacts on the lives of so may that receive care, especially in their own homes. Last month Jane Townson from the Homecare Association was interviewed on channel 4 about the report of a Norfolk woman who was faced with losing her homecare due to shortages in staff at the agency she received her care from.

Another case was that of Anne Gustar, 80, who lives on her own and is completely reliant on her three-times daily care visits, said: “I can’t live without them. I was a carer for 30 years at the local hospital. I know what it’s like.” However, a couple of weeks ago, her carer didn’t show up. “I just assumed he was coming back to put me to bed but it was getting dark, and I thought I’m going to crawl over there and then I thought oh well I can sleep in my chair,” she added.

Government policy

The Government’s recent policy document has set out plans to invest £500m in providing “support in professionalising and developing the workforce”. This included promises of “hundreds of thousands of training places and certifications… and professional development for the regulated workforce”, as well as mental health support and “further reforms” yet to be announced.

In addition to the government’s plans care providers are needing to think outside the box and some providers bucking the trend are enhancing their social media presence in order to raise awareness and attract more open-minded individuals to consider a career in the care sector. Referral schemes have also been introduced recently by some providers to incentivise and encourage people to recommend a career in care. Apprenticeships are also a route that some providers have gone down in order to train new care workers and provide them will the support and guidance needed to build a strong career in the sector.

How will the situation develop?

It will be very interesting over the next few months to see how things develop regarding the staffing situation. Especially for residential and nursing homes as the deadline for care workers to have received the Covid vaccine set as the 11th November.

There is potential for those currently working in a care home setting who are not vaccinated to transfer over to a homecare provider, which may help to alleviate the stresses on domiciliary services.

Hopefully the plans set out by the government as well will begin to have a positive impact on the sector, however, I think more needs to be done and more investments need to be made in order to improve things for care workers and reduce the impact that staff shortages are having on those that require care the most.

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