The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has called on the government to provide a new deal to care workers as a matter of urgency so that the sector can survive the pandemic and beyond.
Earlier this year, the watchdog warned that “the social care sector was fragile as a result of the lack of a long-term funding solution, and in need of investment and workforce planning”. In March 2020, it warned that “any further shocks to the labour market” could lead to a decline in the ability of the service to provide care to users.
Since then, short-term provisions were put in place to help the sector stay afloat through the pandemic but the CQC is now urging the government to immediately address the longer-term issues that have been plaguing the sector for years.
“The long-standing need for reform, investment and workforce planning in adult social care has been thrown into stark relief by the pandemic,” the body said in a statement.
“In social care, Covid-19 has not only exposed but exacerbated existing problems. The sector, already fragile, faced significant challenges around access to PPE, testing and staffing – and coordinated support was less readily available than for the NHS.”
The body said a “new deal for the care workforce” must underpin the reform of the sector, and that this package should provide “clear career progression”, secure “the right skills for the sector” and be one that “values staff, invests in their training and supports appropriate professionalisation.”
Ian Trenholm, Chief Executive of CQC, said: “There is an opportunity now for government, Parliament and health and care leaders to agree and lay out a vision for the future at both a national and local level. Key to this will be tackling longstanding issues in adult social care around funding and operational support, underpinned by a new deal for the care workforce. This needs to happen now – not at some point in the future.”
“Covid is magnifying inequalities across the health and care system – a seismic upheaval which has disproportionately affected some more than others and risks turning fault lines into chasms. As we adjust to a Covid age, the focus must be on shaping a fairer health and care system – both for people who use services, and for those who work in them.”
The vulnerability of the care sector workforce is an issue the Institute of Employment Rights has done considerable work on over the years, culminating in Professor Lydia Hayes’ comprehensive report 8 good reasons why adult social care needs sectoral collective bargaining.
Professor Hayes concludes that a new deal for workers can only be successful and effective if both workers and service users are given a voice in its development and maintenance.