The All Party Parliamentary Group on Adult Social Care (APPG-ASC) says care workers deserve the same recognition as their NHS counterparts. This comes as their latest report reveals a staffing “black hole” in the sector.

They’re now calling for social care to come under one nationalised council, which would oversee standards of pay, opportunities for professional development and employment agreements.

Staff turnover rate is double UK average

The inquiry found that a third of people working in care are leaving their jobs each year and of this, half are leaving in the first twelve months. Younger people or those with no formal care qualifications are more likely to leave.

Having a large amount of vacancies in this sector directly impacts the NHS, as insufficient support to people who need care can lead to higher rates of re-admissions and bed blocking in hospitals.

In the West Midlands, there are currently 7,000 vacancies in social care (GMB regional figures). GMB Regional Organiser, David Warwick, says this is largely down to problems with staff retention. He told Free Radio News that lack of staff led one care home in Coventry to closing down because, as a result, the consistency in care to residents was slipping. He said,

“Fundamentally, we believe that the care sector should offer career progression for people that want to get into the sector, and it should offer them a career route which would improve recruitment and… improve retention of staff. And it would fundamentally improve the care for the people in the homes that need looking after.”

“a demoralised, low paid workforce”

Inquiry evidence from the charity Independent Age revealed that for 20 years’ experience, a care worker could expect an extra 15p per hour than someone with 12 months’ experience (March 2018 figures).

At the same time, it’s estimated that 500,000 care workers across the UK are being paid below the Real Living Wage (£8.21 as of March 2019).

The average wage for a social care worker is £7.89 an hour, (Skills For Care NLW 2018 statistics). In the West Midlands, the average is £7.71.

David Warwick told Free Radio News,

“The GMB policy on the care sector is that the starting wage should be the real living wage, that there should be quality care training in place done at work, and that the ratios of staff to residents is brought up to an agreed level of safe care.”

Rising demands

At the same time, Skills For Care, one of the advisory bodies to the APPG-ASC report, forecasts a need for an extra 580,000 social care workers by 2030 if it is to keep up with the number of people age 65 or over.

Workforce structure

The adult social care workforce is worth an estimated £46.2 billion, and is in fact larger than the NHS.

Whilst a proportion of social care workers are under the NHS, most are still within one of the 21,000 organisations in the independent sector.

The report from the APPG-ASC argues that having a national body for social care providers would help to regulate pay, training and employment agreements.

Achieving parity with the NHS

Proposals for a national care body Council to be introduced focus on clear pathways for professional development, and a national guideline for agreeing pay and employment in the care sector.

For care workers, this would mean greater opportunities to progress with the introduction of a compulsory accredited care certificate. In addition, a qualification package and a registration period would be introduced, and professional development would be recognised with pay.

The APPG-ASC wants this new council to be affiliated with the NHS and says it will be first step towards care workers achieving the parity of their NHS counterparts.

The full APPG-ASC report can be found here.

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