Michael Gove set for ‘urgent’ talks with Prime Minister on social care recruitment problems

Michael Gove has said he will meet Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Boris Johnson this week for “urgent” talks on the recruitment and retention of social care workers.

This comes amid warnings that shortages are leaving vulnerable people without support and compounding pressures on the NHS.

On Monday, the Communities Secretary added that of “the many and formidable” challenges facing local government, adult social care is the most urgent. He admitted that the Government needs to do more to improve the system and provide adequate resources.

NHS leaders, charities and councils have warned that a shortfall of about 120,000 care workers is leading to support being scaled back and preventing people being discharged from overstretched hospitals.

Speaking to county council leaders, Mr Gove said there was a pressing need to address the issue.

He added: “That urgency is shared by Sajid [Javid] and by the Prime Minister, and we’ll be talking this week about what it is that we can do in order to better support the sector to ensure that we have the tools available for both the retention and the recruitment of talented and committed people in the social care workforce.”

Mr Gove added ministers are concerned that pressures on bed capacity in hospitals are leading to people being discharged to care homes rather than receiving support in their own homes, which is often in the best interests of patients.

He said: “We also need to think hard, and I know Sajid and his team are, about how we can ensure that when people are discharged from hospital that we do so in a way that makes it easier for people to access domiciliary care that so many people would prefer, rather than necessarily being discharged into care homes which is often for everyone a less satisfactory option.”

There have been repeated calls over recent months for the Government to take immediate action to address the shortage of care staff. This shortage is said to have be caused by a combination of pandemic burnout, compulsory Covid-19 vaccinations and higher rates of pay being offered for unskilled jobs.

Charities have called for an immediate bonus and a pay rise for staff and for care workers to be added to the Government’s Shortage Occupation List, which would relax restrictions on migrant workers taking on social care roles.

Last month the Government announced an extra £162.5m in an attempt to boost the adult social care workforce, but councils and care organisations have said this would not be enough to tackle the scale of the problem.

This funding was in addition to £5.4bn earmarked for social care over the next three years from the health and social care levy, which already included £500m to be spent on the workforce.

Last month, the care regulator Care Quality Commission warned of “a tsunami” of people without the care they need this winter unless staff shortages are tackled.

Pointing to the social care White Paper, which has been promised by the end of the year, Mr Gove hinted at extra funding for social care.

“In order to make sure that you can continue to to your great work in helping people to live with dignity, we need to do more to both reform the system and to provide the resource,” he said.

The Government yesterday survived a rebellion over its social care reforms, with 19 Tories opposing the plans and dozens more not voting at all in response to the cap on costs being less generous than expected.

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