Not enough people to care
Care homes, care at home, the NHS – it seems that every organisation that could provide care for our older relatives and friends who need support don’t have the staff they need.
Social care in the community
England’s Care Quality Commission has warned of a ‘tsunami’ of people without the care they need this winter unless staff shortages are addressed. Across England, unfilled jobs numbers have risen from 6% in April 2021 to more than 10% in September. The pressure of too much to do in too little time, combined with low rates of pay, has tempted care workers to move into the better-paid retail and leisure sectors, where vacancies are high as businesses return to work.
The government has announced extra money for the care sector, but it has to be shared with the NHS, which is likely to need the vast majority to fill its own budget gaps, depleted by the coronavirus crisis.
Meanwhile the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman in England has reported a relentless rise in upheld complaints about social care. The ombudsman’s latest report shows ‘a system that is increasingly failing some of those who need it most’. The report argues that it’s financial pressures that are behind the problems, which are not usually one-off mistakes. On the positive side, there’s evidence of the majority of staff working in the sector doing an excellent job, and responding well to Covid-19. If you do want to make a complaint about social care received, visit the Ombudsman’s website and follow the steps.
Care home shortages
Listening to care home managers, it seems that this is the way that staffing will play out in the future.
- From 11 November 2021, care home workers have been required to have Covid-19 vaccinations or lose their jobs. Many have chosen to leave rather than be vaccinated
- Those who leave can find work in the homecare sector, where vaccinations are not currently required.
- Care home managers are applying for permission to employ staff from overseas, as senior care workers are currently exempt from the immigration rules that have sent many workers back to their home countries
- The likelihood is that the new care workers are qualified as medical professionals in their own countries, especially nurses, and once they are in the UK will achieve the certification they need to then move into working in the NHS.
The result will be a fluctuating pool of workers available to work in care homes.
Family and friends who care without payment have been under extra pressure during the pandemic, and have often felt unsupported and isolated. A survey by Carers UK found that more than half of its members have lost some or all of the support they need during the coronavirus crisis.
The government is talking about offering unpaid carers more help, including advice and respite, with details to be published later in 2021.
Photo by Kampus Production from Pexels