The care sector is in the grip of a recruitment crisis
In the grand scheme of things, 92% does not sound like a bad statistic. 92% of invited guests showing up to your birthday party, or a score of 92% on a test, both sound like a fairly great outcomes overall.
But consider the adult social care industry, and Skills for Care’s recent report revealing there are currently 110,000 open vacancies for care staff in England. This means only 92% of positions in the sector are currently filled, and suddenly the statistic doesn’t sound nearly as impressive. In fact, it’s quite worrying.
Adult social care recruitment is currently in crisis, and there’s no quick-fix or magic wand to wave that can improve the situation.
However, there is the opportunity for a collective movement, from both the state and private home operators, to raise the profile of a career in care and improve the daily working conditions of this committed workforce. These are workers who provide for some of the most vulnerable people in our society, day in and day out, and they deserve be held in high regard– after all, Skills for Care predicts an additional 650,000 care jobs could be required by the sector by 2035 to meet the needs of the rapidly aging population.
There are numerous ways in which this could be done, starting with promoting adult social care as a fulfilling, rewarding, and respectable career of choice. A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson announced they would soon be launching a public recruitment campaign to raise the profile of the sector, ahead of setting out their plans to reform the overall system.
In the wake of what often feels like relentlessly negative media coverage, morale is low and a future in the sector, both for young people looking to take their first steps on the career ladder and career changers looking for a new challenge, can lack appeal. A state-backed initiative similar to the recently launched HC-One and GMB initiative, Careforce – which aims to celebrate and professionalise careers in care – could be invaluable in encouraging jobseekers to consider the vocation.
But that can’t be all that is done to address the problem. Skills for Care’s report reveals that turnover was incredibly high amongst adult social care workers, at 30.7%. While the majority of job leavers moved onto roles within the industry, with 67% of recruitment occurring within the sector, these are still staggeringly high numbers of skilled workers leaving the profession.
Care workers under 30 are by far the most likely to leave their jobs, mainly because many of them are under the age of 25, and therefore not entitled to the National Living Wage (NLW), which they can find in alternate professions. While I am sure cuts in local authority funding have a significant role to play, with many care operators simply unable to pay their young workers living wage in certain areas as the money simply isn’t available to them, this isn’t a situation that can continue.
Local authority provisions ought to be made to pay all carers, be they 16 or 60, NLW. It’s an emotionally and physically demanding line of work, and those who choose to dedicate their lives to care ought to receive fair financial compensation for their labour.
In Scotland, care funding is sourced partially from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA). During the latest round of funding negotiations North of the wall, an agreement has been reached for COSLA to pay care providers a higher fee rate, so long as their staff are paid at least £8.45 an hour, the NLW in Scotland.
Admittedly, this transition has not been as smooth as it could have been. Many care providers maintain the Scottish Government has introduced this measure without actually providing local authorities with enough money to pay the independent care home sector its dues. Still, I wonder what we could learn from the Scottish approach and if it could effectively be used as a blueprint for improving the lot of carer’s in England.
A career in care is not an easy choice. It’s a demanding and difficult profession, which isn’t suitable for everyone. But plenty of workers who would thrive in care are being driven away by the career’s poor reputation and low wages, amongst other day-to-day struggles. This is why we need a nationalised campaign to boost the profile of the sector, and to collectively improve conditions for care workers. To take these as first steps would lay the foundations for the overhaul the vocation of care work so desperately needs.
Chloe Kent is an Account Executive at PLMR, a communications agency specialising in the health and social care sector, offering expertise in media relations, planning, digital marketing and public affairs.
More information at www.plmr.co.uk