Beleaguered Workforce Threatening Future Of Social Care

Social service chiefs have been told to address the challenge of demoralised staff to stop services from grinding to a halt. Niall Dickson, chief executive of healthcare thinktank the King’s Fund, said plans to improve future social care provision would be scuppered without a growing workforce to deliver. Mr Dickson, who commissioned former banker Derek Wanless to carry out an inquiry into the future of social care, said the report’s recommendations for improved scope of services could not happen without the staff in place.

Currently, there are just over half a million social care staff, around a third of the actual numbers required to deliver the existing demand for services.

Mr Dickson called on social service and council chiefs to invest in their social care workforce ahead of an exponential growth in demand for social care services as people continue to live longer.

He told the national children’s and adult services conference jointly organised by the Association of Directors of Social Services and the Local Government Association in Brighton today: “There is three times the vacancy rate in social care than in other industries. “The challenge of that, looking ahead, is really very significant. It’s all very well saying there is a greater need out there but if you don’t have the workforce, if you don’t improve their status, you will have recruitment and retention difficulties.”

The plight of overstretched social care staff was revealed today after it emerged that home care workers are allocated just 15 minutes with each of their elderly clients.

Local authorities have delivered £314m of savings in adult care services this year and are forecasting a further £213m for next, to comply with the Gershon review of public spending, with a devastating impact on the lives of the independent elderly, unions say.

Health and social care union Unison today called on the government to invest extra resources for staff. Unison national secretary, Heather Wakefield, said the pace of work was putting “intolerable pressure” on home care staff.

“It’s difficult enough to recruit and retain staff on the low pay and poor conditions offered by many of the private contractors that have taken over this work,” she said. “Too many staff vote with their feet and leave because they are not able to provide the standard of care that they believe people are entitled to.

“Home care should be properly funded and integrated within social services so that they can fulfil their vital role as the eyes and ears of social services, reporting any problems early.”