Social care workforce challenge underestimated

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The scale of the workforce challenge in social care has so far been underestimated, research by Nuffield Trust has revealed.

An election briefing document said providing a basic package of care of one hour per day to older people with high needs would require approximately 50,000 additional homecare workers. To provide up to two hours would need around 90,000 extra workers.

The number of older people (65-plus) using publicly funded community care is projected to rise by 16% and the number of working-age adults with learning disabilities using state-funded care at home is expected to grow by 12% over the course of the next parliament.

‘In England, the workforce is hardly able to deliver enough care for today, let alone to begin preparing for this future projected need,’ the 15-page document said.

‘There are already severe and deep shortages of staff within the sector, with the number of existing job vacancies estimated to be around 122,000, with an estimated 48,500 of those in the homecare workforce. To offer more care to a larger population will require a substantial increase in care staff,’ Social care: the action we need said.

Its analysis found there are approximately 163,000 people in England aged 65 or over who have a high level of need but are not receiving help from friends, family or professionals.

The briefing document said both Labour and the Conservatives had been ‘burnt badly’ at past elections over the issue of social care.

The think tank said: ‘What is needed now is a clear vision and strong leadership to enact actual, rather than promises of, change. Alongside this, attention needs to be paid to how to take the public along in any proposals to ensure that crucial buy-in is secured.

‘Failure to act early in the next parliament is likely to be seen as a major omission with far-reaching implications for our economy and serious consequences for the most vulnerable in our society.’