Carers shortage: North Yorkshire social services staff offered £320 bonus, £1,500 golden hello and £2,000 'refer a friend' payments

A local authority which is asking staff in non-critical services such as highways to help keep vulnerable people safe due to a severe shortage of care workers is set to distribute up to £9.2m between care firms and their staff in a bid to to ease the crisis.

North Yorkshire County Council’s executive will tomorrow consider match funding a £3m NHS grant to give the county’s 16,000 care sector worker a 'thank you bonus' of about £320 to recognise their efforts this winter.

The payment will effectively bring forward the national living wage increase by four months.

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North Yorkshire County Council head offices, Northallerton

A meeting of the authority’s leading members will also examine a proposal to offer care firms grants of up to £40,000 to support initiatives to increase or retaining their workforces.

The proposed moves come at a time of continuing fierce competition for the care sector in the labour market, with the hospitality, retail, heavy goods transport and construction industries all reporting staff shortages.

As a result, on any given day there are at least 1,000 care sector jobs available across the county.

In the autumn, the council launched its biggest ever recruitment drive in response to plummeting numbers applying for social care jobs, while care providers in the county have been offering extra financial incentives to staff to take on the roles, from a £1,500 golden handshakes to carers being offered £2,000 for referring three friends.

An officers’ report to the executive states: “During 2021 it has become clear that workforce issues, specifically difficulty in recruiting and retaining front line care workers are becoming a significant issue not only for social care but also having a knock-on effect for the NHS, both in terms of the continuing health care services which it funds and in relation to availability of care to enable safe and timely hospital discharge.”

Coun Michael Harrison, the authority’s adult services and health executive member, said while their were a host of good career opportunities in the care sector, earning the minimum wage in the care sector required a relatively high commitment from workers compared to other minimum wage jobs.

He said: “This is effectively a bonus, a small recognition of the effort that those workers are making, but it’s not going to fix the long-term structural issues in the sector.

“It does reflect a wider realisation from central government that more needs to be done to improve the pay for the sector and particularly the people at the bottom of the pay scale. It’s a welcome start to the year, but more needs to be done to reflect the value of what those people do in their pay packet.

“We hope central government will realise they need to divert money from their new National Insurance tax that they will be raising so that it doesn’t just focus on the NHS. People are recognising that social care is an integral part of that health system.”