Time to ‘value, respect and elevate’ care workers, inquiry finds

Financial strain for ‘sandwich’ generation, YouGov poll finds

The identity and status of the social care workforce needs to be ‘transformed as a matter of urgency’, an inquiry has concluded.

Evidence presented to an all-party parliamentary group on social care from representatives identified a need for parity between the sector’s employees and equivalent colleagues in the NHS.

The report, Elevation, Registration and Standardisation: The Professionalisation of Social Care Workers, said staff were too often overlooked in terms of investment, training, remuneration and value.

‘This oversight is clearly impacting workers themselves and the vulnerable people who rely on their work,’ the 62-page report said.

The inquiry heard evidence from employers and providers, care workers, specialist academics and institutions and charities in both the homecare and care home segments of the sector. These included Care England, UK Homecare Association, Skills for Care, The King’s Fund, Hft, HC-One, and Anchor Hanover, among others.

MPs Louise Haigh and Gillian Keegan, joint chairs of the group, said: ‘The fact that values led, dedicated carers are so undervalued and undermined must be systemically corrected. It would seem self-evident that the higher the quality of the training that care workers receive, the more care work will be given the status and respect it deserves.

‘In turn, more people will be attracted to it, and vitally, if there is real scope for career development and learning new skills – people will remain in the care sector.’

The group’s recommendations included a national programme of work to plan and develop a workforce strategy for England; creation of a national care body with NHS affiliation; formation of a governing Council for England, comprised of providers, commissioners, trade unions and service user groups; and an effective model of registration for England in line with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Evidence provided to the inquiry identified four live factors that were deterring potential workers from joining the sector and causing problems in retaining people. These were pay and conditions, full employment, lack of training and career development, and Brexit uncertainty.

The report said: ‘The physical and emotional realities of social care work and the demands it makes on employees; the cycle of bereavement, misunderstanding of what the role will involve, the common inflexibility of working hours, the under-staffing of care homes and the overall esteem in which the sector is held all contribute to the endemic negative staff churn.’

The all-party parliamentary group, which also included MPs Damian Green, Norman Lamb, Darren Jones, Layla Moran, Stephanie Peacock and Kevin Hollinrake, said there needed to be ‘a substantial funding settlement in social care as a matter of national priority’.

The chairs said: ‘It is time to value, respect and elevate those who work so hard to provide care, and transform this world of work and healthcare for the better.’

Yesterday (Wednesday 4 September), Chancellor Sajid Javid announced an extra £1.5bn for councils to spend on social care, while the government plans to launch the next phase of its recruitment campaign to attract people into the sector.