Cross-party MPs call for national body to solve social care workforce crisis

A cross-party group of MPs is calling for a national care body to be introduced which would put care workers in England on equal footing with NHS staff.

The social care sector is in the midst of a workforce crisis which is “widespread, acute and urgent”, according to a new parliamentary report.

The proposed institution would help give care workers equal status to NHS staff and offer “governance, accreditation and leadership” across the sector, the report said.

The body would have NHS affiliation and would help to create a national identity for care, professionalise its workforce and consolidate the funding allocation for workforce training.

The MPs are calling for a Council for England, comprised of service providers, commissioners, trade unions and service user groups, to be formed to govern the prospective body.

The report, Elevation, Registration & Standardisation: The Professionalisation of Social Care Workers, was produced by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Care.

It said: “Notwithstanding the current, universal political acceptance and acknowledgement of a social care funding crisis, when viewed via the prism of potential economic turbulence (as a consequence of the UK withdrawal from the European Union) and general, pressurised governmental spending considerations, the serious funding settlement required by this sector will need to do battle with a wide range of public service funding demands, in order to reach the levels of sustainability and workforce professionalisation that all stakeholders now identify as socially and economically imperative.

“The immediate challenge is for all sectorial stake holders, and indeed policy makers and politicians: the multi-faceted, complex, outstanding, increasingly highly skilled/medicalised work carried out by the social care workforce must be elevated to NHS parity.”

The APPG heard evidence over a six-month period as part of its inquiry into the social care workforce.

Concerns were raised over a high staff turnover, low morale, endemic low pay, a lack of training and career development opportunities and uncertainty around Brexit.

One body which provided evidence referred to themselves as “employers of last resort”, while another employer told an evidence session in Leeds they were forced to “rip off” their carers by not paying them petrol money.

Louise Haigh MP, who jointly chairs the APPG, said: “Beneath the deafening racket of Brexit, real people are quietly living real lives, and few have suffered as much as a consequence of the Westminster policy void as those providing or receiving social care, day in, day out.

“This cross-party report shows quite vividly that the sector is systemically broken. Whilst it requires serious, sustained funding, the sector equally requires fundamental reform and that must begin with the professionalisation of its chronically under-valued, exploited and degraded workforce.”

Councillor Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “Developing a fully-fledged professional social care workforce is something which councils encourage and this must be recognised as a major long-term project.

“Social care work should be seen as valuable and rewarding in its own right and achieving parity of esteem between the NHS and social care workforces is important.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman: “The adult social care workforce is the backbone of the care sector – we have launched a recruitment campaign to attract people to the sector and are working closely with stakeholders to ensure we are able to meet increasing demands, with the right skills, knowledge and behaviours to deliver quality, compassionate care.

“The Prime Minister is committed to fixing the social care system and we will outline proposals in due course.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire.