Welsh Government urged to quell ‘perfect storm’ in social care
A social care leader has called on the Welsh Government to take urgent action to quell a “perfect storm” threatening care homes and domiciliary care companies in Wales.
According to Care Forum Wales (CFW) which represents private providers in Wales, the social care sector has been blighted by inadequate funding for many years and care homes and domiciliary care companies are now facing the double challenge of having to pay staff a 30% increase without knowing where the money is coming from.
CFW chair Mario Kreft said social care should be treated as a sector of national strategic importance.
“The problems cannot be solved by local government and health boards – we need the Welsh Government to intervene,” said Mr Kreft.
“The NHS is under huge pressure, care home beds are being lost across Wales because of inadequate funding, there’s a chronic shortage of nurses and vitally important domiciliary care companies are having massive recruitment problems.
“It’s creating the environment where it is highly unlikely there will be many new care homes built in the future because the figures just don’t stack up. On top of everything else, the issue of paying staff the living wage is looming large. There’s absolutely no doubt that social care workers deserve the living wage and more but nobody has answered the question how it’s going to be funded.
“Introducing the national living wage over the next four years is going to represent a 30% increase for many workers. This will ramp up all pay rates across the sector and this will have to be paid for. Most industries are able to pass such increases on to the customer but the overwhelming majority of people in care homes in Wales are supported by local authorities, and health boards who are having their budgets cut. That means there is just no money to pay these increases. Something has got to give and I’m afraid it will plunge the social care sector into an even deeper crisis.
“Things are bad enough as they are with care and nursing homes closing because they are no longer viable and the evidence is plain for all to see. Take for example the issue of providing nursing care. The facts are that health boards pay £140 a week for full nursing care over and above the residential fee. Now that equates to £20 a 24-hour day, which is just 88p an hour and we are awaiting a Court of Appeal verdict on this. What can be expected when that is the resource? And yet health boards, local authorities and regulators, carry on as though the money doesn’t matter, and that the resources are infinite.”
Mr Kreft said society had to wake up to the fact that social care in Wales should be a very positive economic contribution, providing real jobs with wages spent in communities across Wales as well as providing vital services.
“This perfect storm could and should be used and navigated to our advantage,” he said.
“Action has to be taken at the highest political level, in government and right through local authorities and other public bodies. We’ve got to work collaboratively as a team, accepting and recognising the challenges we face and work at them together to make the best use of our resources.
“Today what we’re seeing is a trend of an ever aging population, ever increasing need with hospitals, the NHS generally and local authorities doing a magnificent job in very difficult circumstances. The recent exception of two care homes in North Wales is positive but there must be questions as to whether they would have got off the drawing board in the current climate even though there is a real need for new care homes.
“We will not be forgiven if we miss this opportunity. We can really improve the situation significantly but only if there is the vision and the willingness to make it happen. We can only solve this by working together.”