A new joint report from Age UK and the Homecare Association has been published entitled: "What if you need care at home and there’s no one to provide it?" It highlights the workforce pressures within homecare, and the adverse impacts on older people in need of support.
The report spells out the uniquely difficult position care providers are now in as they seek to keep their services going, at a time when it is proving harder than ever to recruit and retain staff. A toxic mix of factors, from Brexit to compulsory vaccination, burn out due to the pandemic and the prospect of higher pay elsewhere, is leading some providers to say they have never experienced such difficulties in holding onto their existing staff and getting new ones on board.
We know, for example, that because of care staff shortages some disabled and older people are now going without the help they need at home because local care agencies are completely full and some live-in care agencies have stopped taking on new clients. These difficulties are also having knock-on consequences for the NHS, with growing numbers of hospitals finding it hard to discharge older patients safely into the community, because home care providers are unable to take them on.
Startling figures in this new report include:
- 95% of providers said that recruitment is harder now than before the pandemic and 78% said it is the hardest it has ever been, a worsening position since a previous survey of homecare providers in July 2021[iii].
- 90% of care workers are paid less than the real living wage[iv] and the median hourly rate of pay for a care worker in 2019/20 was just £8.50[v]
- One in three care workers said they often don’t have enough time to provide personal care and that it’s a challenge to find the time to prepare a meal or help with washing and toileting.[vi]
Jane Townson, chief executive of the Homecare Association said:
“Demand for homecare is rising due to pent-up demand following the pandemic and increasing numbers of older and disabled people with multiple long-term conditions. At the same time, we are experiencing the worst shortage of homecare workers in history.
Employers are struggling to retain and recruit staff and national data show vacancy rates steadily increasing. Our members fear for the safety of older and disabled people unable to access the care they need.
We call on the government to:
- Fund social care adequately so that homecare workers are paid fairly for the skilled roles they perform, and at least on a par with equivalent public sector roles.
- End the practice of councils and the NHS of purchasing homecare “by-the-minute”, alternatively focusing on achieving the outcomes people want.
- Support development of an expert-led workforce strategy for social care and a 10-year workforce plan, aligned with the NHS People Plan.
- Create a professional register for care workers in England, covering all paid social care workers in both regulated and unregulated care services. Registration of care workers needs to be adequately funded and carefully implemented.
- The £500m the government has ear-marked for social care workforce training and well-being is welcome. Shared between a workforce of 1.5 million, though, means only £100 per year per person is available, which will barely scratch the surface of what is necessary.
We need enough well-trained care workers to support older and disabled people to live well at home. Homecare can help to extend healthy lifespan, enhance quality of life, take pressure off the NHS, and save money for the health and care system.
[v] Hayes, L.J.B. (2015), Are the minimum wage rights of homecare workers at risk under the Care Act 2014? Industrial Law Journal 44 (4): 492–521.
[vi] Unison, (2017), Home Care Survey, Accessed via: https://www.unison.org.uk/content/ uploads/2017/09/ UNISON-home-caresurvey-2017.pdf