The crisis in the energy sector could engulf the care sector forcing some homes to close as an extortionate increase caused by a trebling of wholesale gas contracts over the last five months hits the sector.
A report in the Guardian newspaper reveals that a standard care home of 50 residents already spends an estimated £50,000 each year on gas and electricity but price increases may lead to operators paying double that, according to one energy broker. Care homes are not covered by the price cap which protects domestic consumers.
“It could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” said Melanie Weatherby, co-chair of the Care Association Alliance.
Nadra Ahmed, executive chair of the National Care Association, said the energy price crisis “will make some providers feel they are unsustainable”.
“We can’t turn heating off,” she said. “We need it running all the time. I think the impact is going to be substantial, especially through the winter months.”
The likelihood of expensive energy bills as well as soaring food bills, adds to the perfect storm of a care staffing crisis due in part to Brexit but also due to the possibility of staff leaving the sector due to mandatory vaccinations, escalating insurance premiums and falls in care home occupancy.
with the November 11 mandatory vaccination deadline looming, care home operators have written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Priti Patel, to alleviate restrictions on the recruitment of foreign care workers.
In a letter sent by the National Care Forum (NCF), MHA, Anchor Hanover, Sanctuary and the Orders of St John Care Trust, ministers were told staff turnover was at 30 per cent. An NCF poll revealed 74 per cent of care providers have seen more staff quitting since April 2021 with half of workers leaving due to stress and 44 per cent finding better pay elsewhere.
The letter states that the government measures will not solve the current workforce crisis, and ask for the following immediate steps to ensure operators are able to recruit and retain the social care workforce the country needs, and calls for:
- Offer a retention bonus to care staff, in recognition of the dedication these skilled workers have shown throughout the pandemic
- Add care workers to the shortage occupation list for a defined period, to enable more workers from overseas to work in UK care homes with Skilled Worker visas
- Create a wholly flexible Workforce Capacity Fund now to support immediate recruitment & retention challenges & upskilling/ training
- Launch an effective national recruitment campaign to inspire people to join the care workforce
- Extend the Infection Control Fund (ICF) to offer practical support to care providers as our essential work to combat Covid-19 continues.
Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, which represents care homes, has said: “Quite simply care providers are at breaking point.
“The writing is on the wall and without immediate help, as given to the NHS, the social care sector will crumple and not be there to support the NHS over the winter let alone in years to come”.