Karolina Gerlich, CEO, The Care Workers’ Charity
Social Care is in crisis in the UK. No one reading a publication such as Care Talk would find this statement a surprise. The sector is feeling the strain of the past few years but there is not enough funding available to enable a full recovery.
At some point in our lives, most of us will need to rely on social care. Be it through parents, grandparents, drawing on care ourselves or working in the sector.
The government needs to provide the right level of funding to ensure that there are enough staff to meet the rising demand for social care. The vacancy rate is 11% – higher than the NHS, and almost triple the average rate in the UK. By allowing this crisis to continue, they are not only causing issues for care workers but also for those who draw on social care in all varieties. The money that has been recently announced to support hospital discharge is very welcome, but nowhere near enough.
Social care is not just a place for people who need to leave hospital. It is a critical part of society which needs radical reform. In order to encourage more people to become care workers, and stay in the sector long term, we need better workforce data, planning and professionalisation and we need to recognise care workers’ Valuable contribution to society
Introducing compulsory registration for English social care workers, as is already in place in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, would be an important first step to achieving this.
This will do two things.
- It will show that care workers are professionals and should be paid, respected, and treated as such. It will regulate all training and education of the workforce allowing care workers to be proud of their training and skills and to easily display them when applying for jobs increasing confidence for care workers and confidence for those who hire them. It will also allow care workers to be part of something as a whole and not just within their own organisation. And crucially, it will support better workforce data.
- Having a registered and regulated workforce means that if the standards are not met, action can be taken therefore giving recruiters and managers back up to uphold standards and support when things go wrong and improving quality of service to those who draw on social care
The social care workforce in the UK employs more people than the NHS but it is the forgotten workforce – people don’t often think about care until they need it. It seems much harder to get behind and support than its health care equivalent. But care workers are struggling to cope on low wages during a cost of living of crisis in a sector that is still recovering from the impact Covid. We have provided £4.3m in grants to nearly 7000 care workers and yet we still cannot raise enough money to keep up with demand.
It is hard not to feel like our “covid heroes” have quickly been demoted in minds, budgets, and plans. And without a workforce how can social care have a future at all?