Adult social care needs 110,000 more workers – a number expected to rise to 650,000 by 2035 – but the sector is plagued by turnover rates double the national average at 30.7%, prompting the Department of Health and Social Care to take action.
As noted by researcher Dr Lydia Hayes in the IER’s report 8 Good Reasons Adult Social Care Needs Sectoral Collective Bargaining, the recruitment and retention crisis stems from very poor pay and conditions, including flat rates for “sleep-in” shifts that fall as low as £3 per hour, zero-hours contracts becoming an industry norm, and a lack of training despite carers being asked to take responsibility for vulnerable adults’ medical needs – including in emergency situations. Most care workers are also not paid for the time they spend travelling between their appointments, which can bring their wages below the national minimum when measured by hours on the job.
As Chris, a care worker, told the IER last year: “Young carers can’t believe another person’s life is in their hands. A lot of them quit. I don’t blame them. They can earn more at McDonalds, where they’re allowed to go home to sleep, and if they make a mistake, no one dies.”
The government’s proposed solution is ‘Every Day Is Different’, a £3 million advertising campaign that will attempt to woo young workers into the sector without making any improvements to the poor treatment that has driven them away.
Unison Assistant General Secretary, Christina McAnea, said: “Ministers are putting the care cart before the horse. It makes no sense to go all out on a recruitment drive, without first tackling the problems triggering the daily exodus of care workers from the sector.
“Poor pay, minimal training and a dire lack of funding are the main reasons why so many care workers want to leave. The government must address these pressing issues first.”
Care charities agreed. HfT, which supports adults with learning disabilities, found in its Pulse Check survey of 56 care providers last year that 80% cited low wages as their biggest obstacle when it comes to recruitment and retention.
Elsewhere, George McNamara, Director of Policy and Influencing at Independent Age, said: “Workers are leaving due to low wages, little job progression, lack of training and perceived lower status compared to similar healthcare roles”.
“Solely focusing on recruitment, without also addressing staff retention, will severely limit the impact of the campaign,” he added.