Care home staff 'should have equal pay and status with the NHS', says council boss

The Government has been urged to conduct a national pay review into social care provision amid warnings that a “sea change” in perceptions of the profession is needed to counter a recruitment crisis.

The care sector nationally is enduring a massive challenge to attract and retain staff with fewer people coming into the sector, some workers switching to the NHS or leaving the career altogether due to the demands of the job which have been accentuated by the coronavirus pandemic.

North Yorkshire County Council will next week embark on the latest phase of a recruitment campaign to address a critical shortfall in care workers.

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The council’s corporate director for health and adult services, Richard Webb, told The Yorkshire Post that the care profession needed to be recognised as an equal to the NHS to help attract new recruits.

Care home staff should have equal pay and status with the NHS, a council boss has said

He said: “The care sector remains such an important sector, but there does need to be a change of attitude towards the profession. There is a real dilemma as to how services which are funded by the taxpayer and provided by councils, small businesses or charities.

"We can't compete with global companies in the retail, hospitality and distribution sectors, which are hoovering up the workforce in a really tough labour market.

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“We believe there should be an independent review to look at pay and the status of the whole sector, and a sea change in thinking as to how the care profession is perceived.

“We need to recognise care workers as professionals, as we do for doctors and nurses - their roles are just as vital.”

The recruitment challenges in the care sector have seen its workforce contract by three per cent during the past year.

North Yorkshire County Council currently has 71 full-time frontline care worker vacancies and 27 full-time social work and occupational therapy vacancies.

There are, however, hundreds more vacancies across the independent sector with 500 care providers operating in North Yorkshire, the vast majority of which are small and medium-sized enterprises and charities.

There has been a 70 per cent fall in applications for roles overseen by the county council, caused by a combination of the pandemic and Brexit and changes in the economy in recent years.

Some people have left due to mandatory vaccination requirements but, in North Yorkshire, this has been fewer than 300 staff out of 16,000 frontline workers.

There has also been a general shift away from the demanding profession as workers seek higher paid work to counter the cost of living crisis.

Someone embarking on a career in caring can expect to earn the National Minimum Wage, which currently stands at £8.91 for anyone aged 23 and over.

The county council has joined forces with the NHS to make a one-off £300 pay bonus to North Yorkshire’s 16,000 frontline care workers, which is being paid between now and March.

The county council’s executive member for adult services and health integration, Coun Michael Harrison, said: “We welcome the fact that the Government is reforming social care and providing more money but, so far, that only addresses one of the two fundamental questions facing the sector.

“We need reform so that individuals and families don’t face unpredictable care costs. The Government is making a serious attempt to do that, although the devil will be in the detail.

“However, the second question is about reforming and stabilising the care market, and whilst we welcome short-term measures, we do need a longer term plan.”

North Yorkshire County Council will unveil the latest phase of its recruitment campaign on Thursday after an initial drive was launched in November.

There are currently 186 candidates within the recruitment process who are either being screened, reviewed by managers or awaiting an interview.

A total of 35 candidates have so far been placed in roles in the care sector.

The new phase of the campaign will involve care workers outlining their experiences within the sector to try and encourage new recruits to sign up to the profession.