Vacancy rates across social care adding to mental health crisis facing workforce – Unison

Mounting mental health problems facing workers in social care could worsen because of severe staff shortages, a leading trade union has warned.

Unison said its research suggested that a substantial number of care workers have suffered problems during the pandemic, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

More than two-thirds of 4,264 care workers surveyed by Unison said their mental health has declined.

Most respondents said their work had contributed to the difficulties they were experiencing.

Unison warned that staffing problems are likely to worsen in the coming weeks amid predictions that thousands of care workers could leave their jobs because of new compulsory vaccine rules.

Problems revealed by the survey included depression and anxiety, the inability to leave work-related stress behind, and sleeping difficulties.

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea (pictured) said: “Care workers have been through the mill these past 18 months. They have seen dozens of people they look after either fall seriously ill or die.

“They’ve been terrified about becoming sick themselves or taking the virus home to their families.

“Many have struggled financially because of the absence of proper sick pay.

“Despite the Prime Minister’s promise to fix social care, there is still no plan. With the sector facing the abyss, thousands of staff down with others leaving all the time, more must be done to support those care workers that remain in post.

“The Government’s commitment to funding mental health support is welcome, but help is needed now, not at some unknown point in the future.”

Liz Kendall, shadow minister for social care, said: “Care workers have made immense sacrifices to look after our loved ones, especially during the pandemic.

“Yet, despite over 100,000 vacancies in social care, and mounting mental health concerns among staff, the Government has presented no plan for the winter, and no immediate funding to fix this crisis.

“The only thing this Government has guaranteed is a tax rise for hard-working care staff, who are already underpaid and undervalued.

“Unless urgent action is taken on this, it will only get worse.

“Staff will continue to leave the sector, and older and disabled people will be at risk of going without the care they need.

“Ministers must present a long-term workforce plan to fix the crisis in social care, delivering the pay, training, terms and conditions that our care staff need.”

Edel Harris, chief executive of learning disability charity Mencap, said: “Carers do vital, highly-skilled work, yet they are among the lowest paid in society.

“They have gone above and beyond during the pandemic, risking their lives to keep our loved ones safe and well.

“Tragically, some have lost their lives, others have lost colleagues and people they cared for.

“Far too many are now struggling with poor mental health and exhaustion, while thousands of others are leaving the profession.

“Many social care providers are doing what they can to support their colleagues during a very difficult time, but only better pay and significant investment in social care reform will relieve the ongoing pressures on the sector and its workforce.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2021, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Unison.