Action needs to be taken in raising the status of the social care workforce, so employees see the sector as an attractive career that is adequately paid.
This is one of nine recommendations made by a group of Welsh politicians after they expressed concern over the ‘fragility of the independent care sector’.
The finance committee of the National Assembly for Wales, which holds the Welsh government to account, called for social care workers to receive support to become experienced members of staff who wanted to stay in the sector in the long-term.
Its report, The cost of caring for an ageing population, said: ‘This work must be on par with working conditions offered to staff working in the NHS in order to demonstrate how valuable these roles are.’
While it had been encouraged that the Welsh government had identified social care as a priority in its economic action plan, the committee said more needed to be done in respect of workforce planning, particularly around replacing experienced staff when they retire and attracting employees after the UK leaves the EU.
The committee’s cross-party assembly members heard how staffing accounts for between 60% and 70% of provider costs.
It heard ‘compelling evidence’ to suggest there was a crisis in recruitment and retention, particularly in domiciliary care, where providers are seeing a turnover of between a quarter and a third of their staff every year.
The 73-page document said: ‘[The committee] is concerned that the low pay and the perceived low social status of the role are unattractive to current and potential staff, particularly when staff are able to earn more in positions in the retail sector.’
Assembly members heard evidence that local authority contracts had been returned to them by providers as they were not financially viable. The report said: ‘The committee believes that it is crucial, when contracts are issued by local authorities, that the assessment of the cost of delivering those services should be realistic, including staff costs.
‘It is concerned that if cost assessments are not accurate, there will be an increase in un-met need, leaving elderly people in vulnerable situations. In turn, this could increase the chance of developing or worsening health problems, thereby increasing the pressure and the cost on the NHS.’
Other recommendations included monitor funding provided to local authorities, carry out more work to help the public understand fees and the cost of care, and provide accurate data for projecting future demand on services.
Older People’s Commissioner for Wales Heléna Herklots said: ‘It is essential that our social care system has the resources it needs to provide the highest standards of care and support to the people who need it and I hope that the Welsh government will accept the committee’s recommendations and take the action needed to ensure Wales has a well-funded, sustainable social care system that will meet older people’s needs both now and in the future.’
A Welsh government spokesperson said: ‘We are committed to ensuring individuals have the care and support they need to live the lives they want to lead. That’s why we are currently considering a wide-range of options for raising, distributing and utilising additional funding to support a seamless, integrated health and social care service, consistent with the vision set out in A Healthier Wales, our long-term plan for health and social services.’