Government must reverse care work's poor public image

The UK’s social care workforce is suffering from low pay, low esteem and high turnover of staff and must reverse its poor public image to improve recruitment and retention in the sector.

That is the view of the Public Accounts Committee which has published a new report on the issue, arguing that the Department of Health and Social Care has been unclear on how it intends to implement a sustainable funding regime to meet the ever-increasing demand for care.

The committee finds that the UK’s upcoming departure from the European Union is ‘causing uncertainty over how the workforce will be sustained’, especially given that some regions are heavily reliant on non-UK workers.

Additionally, given the pressures on the sector, the report warns that the Department of Health and Social Care views the upcoming Green Paper as ‘a cure all’ and underestimates the scale of the challenge.

Meg Hillier, chair of the committee, said: "Adult social care needs sustainable funding and a stable workforce. The sector is scraping by and without an explicit, long-term plan backed by government it could soon be on its knees. Levels of unmet need are high and rising; short-term funding fixes are a road to nowhere and the ingrained issues that lead to high turnover in the workforce could be compounded by Brexit.

“Government should not content itself with councils’ ability simply to meet the legal minimum for care provision. Nor should it seek solace in measures that risk opening a prolonged debate on the challenges facing the sector. Those challenges are already well-documented, clear and pressing. We urge government to publish this year, and then implement, a credible long-term funding plan for care."

Responding to the report, Linda Thomas, vice chair of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “This report lays bare the stark facts behind the adult social care crisis which is of increasing concern for the entire sector and cannot be ignored by the government. Councils have done all they can to prioritise and protect adult social care, but the combination of historic funding reductions, rising demand and increasing cost pressures means many councils are having to make significant savings and reductions across their budgets, including within adult social care itself.

“A long-term solution that delivers genuinely new and sustainable funding for social care is desperately needed, otherwise councils risk not being able to fulfil their statutory duty under the Care Act. This need to be supported by a realistic workforce strategy which recognises and values the vital roles played by the front line care workers, managers and nurses. Government needs to address immediate pressures impacting on the system today, and ensure its Green Paper will deliver reforms to future-proof the long term sustainability of adult social care.”

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