Cry For Help
‘Cry for help’, is a phrase for those who work in the health and social care sector that is very familiar. Sometimes it can be the person in need or a family member seeking help for a loved one. Whoever it might be, the sector will always do its best to meet the person’s needs by undertaking an assessment and producing a care plan. A long established process that has enabled hundreds of millions of UK people in need to receive care.
Since March 2020, the global Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the health and social care sector and has stretched its ability to continue providing care to incalculable levels. It has left the workforce exhausted and their willingness to continue working in the sector totally eroded resulting in the number of employees in the sector increasingly declining. At the risk of stating the obvious, without workers, regardless of whether you are a professional in the sector, it’s irrefutably evident that it is impossible to provide care.
So, what happens when the sector makes a ‘cry for help’ to the government, who has a stautory duty to ensure there is sufficient provision of care, to substantially increase funding to the sector to attract more workers? I guess it would not be unreasonable of the sector to expect to be treated the same way it treats others. In the first instance we would undertake an assessment to understand the need. Fortunately, multiple professional organisations with oversight of the sector have undertaken this work. In the last two years there have been countless reports and surveys all of them arriving at the same conclusion, namely, there is a chronic shortage of workers. Below are quotes from some of the reports/surveys that were published in the last six months:
“One of the key messages from our State of Care report for 2020/21 was that staffing pressures were being felt by people using and working in all health and care settings. We highlighted, however, that the impact was being seen most acutely in all areas of adult social care, including care homes and home-care services. In this sector, providers were competing for staff with the retail and hospitality industries, which can offer higher salaries.” (Care Quality Commission – May 2022)
“Vacancies are now higher than pre-COVID levels with the number of filled posts decreasing, with a drop of 4.5% filled posts among employers reporting data in the adult social care workforce data set since March 2021 to May 2022.” (Skills for Care – June 2022)
“Seven in 10 Social Care Directors say care providers in their area have closed, ceased trading or handed back contracts to local councils and many more cannot deliver the increased care and support needed due to staffing shortfalls.” (Association of Directors of Adult Social Services – July 2022)
“’The Social Care Workforce: averting a crisis’, published on 26 July, states that some carers are paid less than dog walkers and calls for urgent action from the government to improve the recruitment and retention of care professionals and volunteers in the adult social care sector.” (Public Policy Project – July 2022)
“‘I dread hearing Aldi opening up nearby… I know I will lose staff.’ This quote cited in last month’s House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee report on the health and care workforce is familiar to many in adult social care. Along with other similar evidence, it led the committee to conclude that ‘social care providers are consistently being outbid by the retail and hospitality sectors’”. (The King’s Fund – August 2022)
“The adult social care sector is facing what the Health and Social Care Committee described as ‘the greatest workforce crisis in [its] history.’ Vacancies in the sector have increased by 52% (55,000) over the last twelve months, necessitating a costly and increasingly unsustainable reliance on agency staff.” (Care England – August 2022)
These reports/surveys are a mere fraction of what were published during this period. For at least two years now many others have been produced with similar compelling messages which have been echoed by providers and the national media. A cacophony of evidence regarding an essential sector that cares for the UK people when they are in need. In addition to the above disturbing findings, currently, a shocking 600 people a day are joining growing waiting lists to be assessed for care and support in England, warn directors of adult social services. A new survey by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) suggests that almost 300,000 people are now waiting for an assessment of their needs by social workers, an increase of 90,000 (44%) in five months. It also revealed that the number waiting for an assessment will hit 400,000 by November – double the total 12 months previously. So has the sector been treated the same way it treats others regarding its ‘cry for help’ to the government? Quite simply, no.