As many as 90,000 home care workers for the over 65s are needed if the main parties’ manifesto pledges to expand and reform social care are to be achieved.
While the Conservative and Labour parties have pledged recruitment targets for thousands of police officers, nurses and GPs, analysis by the Nuffield Trust has revealed that to provide one hour of care daily to this group would require a minimum of 48,000 additional home care workers. For two hours’ care, this target rises to nearly 90,000 hires.
Everyone knows about the staffing crisis in the NHS, but less attention is paid to the social care workforce, where vacancies are even more significant. The incoming government needs to deliver a sustainable social care system, and this must include a new workforce strategy that helps fill the major gaps we have in the supply of care workers” – Niall Dickson, NHS Confederation
In a new briefing the think tank finds there are around 165,000 over 65s in England who need help with basic daily activities like dressing, washing and eating, but are not currently receiving it from professionals, family or friends.
The Nuffield Trust says that expanding social care to this group is implicit in both the Labour party’s pledge for free personal care for over 65s and the Conservative party’s principle to “give every person the dignity and security that they deserve”, despite a lack of concrete proposals in the Tory manifesto.
Researchers took the average number of hours of care people currently receive and calculated the hours needed to deliver care for the 165,000 over 65s not currently receiving care. This revealed the need for 48,000-90,000 workers to provide between one and two hours’ care each day.
The study called upon the political parties to ensure any future migration system does not restrict social care staff from entering the UK after Brexit. “It is critical that the next government goes back to the drawing board to design a sector-specific visa route that works for social care,” reads the report.
Natasha Curry, co-author and deputy director of policy at the Nuffield Trust said: “Despite the extremely disappointing lack of concrete proposals to pay for social care in the Conservative manifesto, it is clear that all parties quite rightly wish to expand the current paltry system. Caring for people who are currently struggling with no support will take time, money and – crucially – thousands more home care workers.
“We must be prepared to hire and hold on to much-needed social care workers from home and abroad – and that means being open to so-called ‘low-skilled migration’. Without doing this it will be impossible to expand social care to those who need it.
“Whoever is prime minister on 13 December needs to grasp the nettle and put forward clear proposals for funding and staffing social care if thousands of people are not to continue to suffer.”
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said: “Everyone knows about the staffing crisis in the NHS, but less attention is paid to the social care workforce, where vacancies are even more significant. The incoming government needs to deliver a sustainable social care system, and this must include a new workforce strategy that helps fill the major gaps we have in the supply of care workers.”
A separate survey by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services found that 93% of directors are concerned about their ability to provide the care they are legally required to. Nearly all have concerns that they have insufficient capacity to deal with winter or the failure of a major care provider.
We must be prepared to hire and hold on to much-needed social care workers from home and abroad – and that means being open to so-called ‘low-skilled migration’” – Natasha Curry, Nuffield Trust
President Julie Ogley said: “Back in July, our budget survey showed that we are desperately lacking the sustainable long-term funding needed to provide vital services that will allow us all to live the dignified lives we want to lead.
“We are relentlessly positive about what social care can achieve. But it’s clear from today’s findings that the situation is worse than in July. We cannot keep relying on emergency, one-off short-term funding and we cannot afford more vague promises or partial solutions…
“This is why, whoever forms the next government must make a choice and prioritise adult social care.”