Social care workforce has been neglected, says National Audit Office
The Department of Health and Social Care is not doing enough to support a sustainable social care workforce. This is the major finding of a National Audit Office (NAO) report released in early February.
The report said the number of people working in care was not meeting the country’s growing care demands and unmet care needs are increasing.
“While many people working in care find it rewarding, there is widespread agreement that workers feel undervalued and there are limited opportunities for career progression, particularly compared with similar roles in health,” said the NAO report.
“In 2016-17, around half of care workers were paid £7.50 per hour or below (the National Living Wage was £7.20 in 2016-17), equivalent to £14,625 annually. This, along with tough working conditions and a poor image, prevents workers from joining and remaining in the sector.”
There are around 1.34 million jobs in the adult social care sector in England, across more than 20,300 organisations1. The turnover rate of care staff has been increasing since 2012-13 and in 2016-17 reached 27.8%. The vacancy rate in 2016-17 for jobs across social care was 6.6%, which was well above the national average of 2.5%-2.7%.
The NAO report said the Department of Health and Social Care had no national strategy to address this workforce challenge and key commitments it had made to help make the sector more attractive, through enhanced training and career development, had not been followed through. Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, said the NAO’s report showed the social care workforce was in a precarious state.
“We are increasingly dependent on care workers to look after ourselves and our families, yet the profession suffers from low pay, low esteem, and high turnover of staff,” said Ms Hillier.
“The Department of Health and Social Care needs to address these issues urgently. To date it has done little to help councils and providers prevent a looming workforce crisis.
“The Secretary of State has had ‘social care’ added to his title, but this change of name must be backed up by action to tackle this problem and reduce pressures on the NHS. He needs to act now.”