Our ageing society is facing some of the most pressing challenges since 1945. In the care sector, the rising cost of living and higher energy prices are exacerbated by an uncertain policy environment, huge recruitment challenges and the growing needs of an ageing society.
These challenges are very real. However, in meeting them head on, the UK will be better placed to grasp the opportunities of our ageing population, in which more than 20% of people will be aged 65 and over by 2030.
One of the enduring lessons of the last few years is the importance of resilience and innovation as well as an unwavering commitment to doing the right thing.
Our social care workforce does an incredibly important job and the sector continues face huge challenges around recruitment and retention. In December 2021, Anchor became the first large provider in England to move to paying the ‘real living wage’ as set by the Living Wage Foundation. We felt it was important to recognise the contribution of colleagues in providing high quality services and sustaining those services. We are also looking at what more we can do to support our care workforce as part of a comprehensive package of benefits, which already includes shopping discounts and support for people’s wellbeing.
Recruitment challenges are a sector wide issue. As members of the National Care Forum (NCF), we are collectively urging government to intervene to tackle the deepening workforce crisis in the adult social care.
Calls by the NCF on government to improve pay in the sector come after Skills for Care report released its report, The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England (Oct 2022), revealed a vacancy rate that had risen to 10.7%, alongside a 52% increase in the number of vacancies in 2021-22.
This means there are currently around 165,000 vacant posts in the adult social care sector. At the same time, the research identified a 3% decrease in the number of filled posts (50,000) over the same period.
Furthermore, analysis by the Health Foundation, which found that one in five residential care workers in the UK was living in poverty before the cost-of-living crisis.
Both reports highlight the scale of the staffing crisis in the social care sector, which contributed an estimated £51.5bn per year to the economy in England in 2021-22.
The challenges around rising energy costs provide an even stronger incentive for the sector to be more sustainable. It’s a subject that’s hugely important at Anchor, and to me personally.
We’re committed to doing more to meet the increasing needs of older people in a sustainable way. We build new housing that is energy efficient (Energy Performance Certificate Rating B or above), and we’ve achieved a minimum EPC B rating in 99.5% of new properties built over the last five years. Our brand-new care home that we opened in Leeds recently, Wharfeside, has an EPC A rating, with over 80 per cent of the roof covered in solar panels and onsite battery stores retaining any spare energy produced.
As the UK’s society ages, it is inevitable that the number of people living with dementia requiring care and support will also increase. In the UK at present, around 850,000 people are living with dementia, with one in 14 aged 65 and over, and one in six aged 80 and over, living with the condition.
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, 1.5m people in the UK will be living with dementia by 2040. Yet, too often, we see a clinical diagnosis of dementia coming too late to enable people who develop the condition and their loved ones to discuss services and housing options. Additionally, the partnership between housing, health and social care is not sufficiently developed in England and requires significant enhancement particularly in terms of information sharing between services.
As a specialist provider of dementia care, we are committed to providing innovative services. Earlier this year, Anchor launched Music 4 the Mind, an innovative 18-month project to improve outcomes for residents living with dementia through the transformative power of music. The partnership, launched in collaboration with Anglia Ruskin University’s Cambridge Institute for Music Therapy Research, with funding from the Utley Foundation, will also upskill care workers in dementia care therapy, enriching the care we give residents and the career paths we offer. Anchor is one of the first care home providers in the UK to partner with a university to implement music therapy sessions into its dementia care pathway, with the project positioning music therapy at the forefront of dementia care.
If the pandemic and the ongoing period of uncertainty which has followed has proved anything, it is that social care organisations must innovate – and many have proved remarkably capable of doing just that.