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Staffing crisis in social care worsens

The staffing crisis in the social care sector is set to deepen, as statistics show a loss of up to 70,000 workers across the sector in the six months to November.

The figures, published by the Department of Health and Social Care and analysed by health think tank, the Nuffield Trust, equate to up to 4% of the total adult social care workforce.

The Nuffield Trust warned that the loss in staff would prove especially troublesome for home care suppliers, which lost at least 11,000 staff, much of which, it said, was due to exhaustion and burnout.

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Camille Oung, researcher for the Nuffield Trust, said that the sector was simply unable to compete with other industries’ wages in the ongoing labour shortage, especially over the holiday period.

She added: “More than 1.5 million hours of home care could not be delivered between August and October due to lack of staff.”

“More than 400,000 people are already awaiting assessments or care.”

There are many other pressures, she added.

“Staff self-isolating as COVID and flu rates increase is a real concern. Some providers have already had to stall operations at very short notice due to widespread staff sickness.”

The problem, however, is not just in keeping existing staff on, but in finding the right staff.

In rural areas, home care is dependent on staff being able to drive, but current delays to the processing of drivers’ licences have have thinned an already small pool of labour. Some providers told the trust that as few as one in five of their applicants had a licence.

Similarly, in multicultural areas, having access to a pool of labour with diverse language backgrounds is critical for the dependents’ peace of mind.

Christianah Akpojivi, registered care manager at Caremark Lambeth, told HR magazine that Brexit had had a severe impact on her ability to hire diverse staff.

“At the moment,” she said, “what I see is that maintaining diversity is a confinement.

“We had some carers that were Portuguese, some from Spain, some from the rest of the EU.”

When Brexit hit, many of her European staff left suddenly.

“It’s that diversity of languages that they speak – it is very important in health and social care, especially in home care.”

“We go to peoples’ homes to look after them. People from different cultures of life, backgrounds; we have to meet our demand.”

Similarly, one potential recruit had to be turned away for refusing vaccination.

“The only one who refused to take the vaccine – she hadn’t even started work. We interviewed her for field care, and she said she doesn’t want to take the vaccine. So we stopped the interview.”

The government, she added, needs to do more to support home care.

“I love the industry, so I think the government needs to act more in terms of staffing. Because if I say to you now that we’re struggling – what about all those that have a rota more full than ours?

“What I say is that the industry needs a bit of incentive for the care staff, so that we encourage more people to come into the industry.”

“People are now living longer than ever before, so it’s not an industry to overlook. It’s really an industry to really take care and invest in. So obviously we need the staffing. We need that staffing.”