The most recent Skills for Care ‘State of the Adult Social Care’ report states that there are 110,000 vacancies within the sector, and that turnover within care worker roles is currently at 37.6% – increasing steadily over the last few years.
This isn’t anything new for those who know the sector, but it does remind us of the seriousness of the situation regarding getting people to start – and stay – working in social care.
Our recent research report on the ‘Well-being of care workers’, and other research that we have undertaken in the last year, shows that the most common denominator between care workers that leave their employment is pay.
There are still cases where care workers are not paid National Minimum Wage (NMW) for the hours they work, and travel time that they are owed. On top of that, some care workers are forced to give their free time to paint care homes, do paperwork, or attend training. The recent court ruling about sleep-ins means that many care workers are still paid just £20-£30 for a whole night at work.
Let’s be clear here: if you are at your place of work, unable to go home at any time you wish, can be woken up at any time and for various lengths of time – then you are at work! It is unacceptable that care workers are being denied NMW for work during sleep-in shifts and it needs to stop.
The simple truth is that once care workers get paid at least what they are owed, more will want to stay in the sector. We have to admit that nobody goes to work in care for the glamour of the job, or the perks involved. Most people go to work in care because of their caring nature, and their desire to help others. This is not something that should be taken advantage of, but should be appreciated and rewarded.
High staff turnover numbers negatively impact everybody involved. People using care services do not get continuity of care. They have to get to know new people very frequently, and that can be confusing and upsetting. Their families worry that someone they do not know is again looking after their loved one. Providers have to deal with additional – and very often high – recruitment costs, inductions and training. So much time is spent worrying about filling rotas and providing enough care for everybody. Moreover, care workers themselves have little job security and work-life balance.
I am talking about thinking outside the box. Outside the box of needing more funding to pay more. I am talking about changing the way funds that are already available are spent. If care workers are paid a decent wage, that reduces recruitment, induction and training costs, and those funds can be fed back into care workers’ wages. The moment care workers are treated with respect and proper remuneration for their time, they will give more. Such is the nature of a great care worker to care and help, that once correctly treated, many will go out of their way to do more. This can be seen in so many stories that we share at events such as the Great British Care Awards – stories of care workers doing extra work in their free time, and giving all they can to people they look after, for the benefit of us all.
Thinking back to those 110,000 unfilled vacancies and high staff turnover: we must look outside the box and realise that proper remuneration of care workers is an essential step in saving a struggling industry. It is even more essential with our ageing society and lack of care workers. Most of all, it is essential in ensuring that people get the person-centred, outstanding care that they deserve every day.