PARLIAMENT should be recalled for MPs to urgently tackle the staffing crisis in social care and recruit a task force of volunteers to help out, providers said today.
The Independent Care Group (ICG) today unveiled a three-point plan to prevent a “winter meltdown” due to the crisis in the care of older and vulnerable people.
It calls for:
- Parliament to be recalled urgently to tackle the crisis
- A volunteer army to fill gaps left by the huge recruitment shortage in care
- A financial injection to help providers give staff better terms and conditions.
Years of underfunding followed by the Covid-19 pandemic has left the sector on its knees with increasing closures of care and nursing homes and homecare providers having to hand back contracts.
ICG Chair Mike Padgham said: “MPs have gone off for their summer recess leaving the care of our most vulnerable in crisis.
“The staffing crisis is now so bad that providers are battling day to day to cover shifts both in homes and in looking after people in their own home. Many say it is the worst they have known in more than 30 years and so we need urgent action now, before the added pressures of winter turn this into a total meltdown.”
Before Covid-19 there were 120,000 vacancies in the care sector. Staff sickness and those isolating has been followed by a loss of staff to the sector due to plans to force all employees to have the vaccine. The end of freedom of movement after Brexit has also cut off a valuable source of recruitment for the sector.
There is a growing problem of providers being unable to take on new clients or handing contracts back to their local authority. This is leading to people being stuck in hospital beds or left without the care they need.
“We cannot wait for the resumption of Parliament to tackle the current situation,” Mr Padgham added. “We need some urgent funding to be put in place, like the Government did with infection control, to enable providers to address pay within the sector and help them to recruit, because staff shortages are now becoming critical.
“The Government should also recruit a care volunteer task force, from retired nurses, doctors, carers, to help out. This would need to be done quickly so that they can be DBS checked and trained before winter pushes us to tipping point.
“We also need to work closely with the inspectors, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), to see how we manage the inspection regime sensitively during this extremely challenging time for providers, many of whom are struggling to keep going.
“Even before Covid-19 there were 1.5m people living without the care they need. We should be addressing that. Instead, we are struggling to keep our heads above water. Without urgent help we are going to experience a terrible winter.”
The ICG has long campaigned for:
- A root and branch overhaul of the way social care is planned and funded
- NHS care and social care to be merged and managed either locally or nationally
- Extra funding for social care, funded by taxation or National Insurance
- Dementia treated like other high priority illnesses, like cancer and heart disease
- A fixed percentage of GDP to be spent on social care
- Social care businesses to be zero-rated for VAT.