Social care boss lays bare the pressures threatening services for some of society's most vulnerable

A leading care home boss has laid bare how fresh pressures are threatening services for some of society's most vulnerable people due to Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mike Padgham said the care sector is under such strain that it would be a challenge "to make sure there are still some there" in the coming years.

Mike Padgham, chairman of the Independent Care Group, which represents all North Yorkshire and York's care homes, told the county council's care scrutiny committee the care sector is under such strain that it would be a challenge "to make sure there are still some there" in the coming years.

Councillors heard North Yorkshire County Council had set up a multi-agency board to come up with solutions to challenges the social care industry was facing, and in particular maintaining sufficient numbers of care providers.

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Since January last year nursing home occupancy rates in the county had fallen from 92 per cent in January to 77 per cent due 387 deaths in the homes leading to a lack of confidence over their safety arrangements. This had been compounded by homes not accepting new admissions, Mr Padgham said.

He added with more than two-thirds of care homes’ income being used to pay staff, homes needed a 95 per cent occupancy rate to be viable and yet such occupancy rates may take years to achieve.

He said: "Occupancy is a problem for us and there is only a certain amount of time each home can carry on. That's a challenge that the government has to look at. If it's a local authority-run care home then you have to go to consultation.

"If it's a private care home, if the bank doesn't want to pay the wages at the end of the week you can close with virtually no notice and we have lost homes in North Yorkshire.

"I think different ways of working, caring for people in their own homes or extra care is the way forward, but we will always need some care homes and some nursing homes. The issue is how are we going to make sure there are still some there in the market place? That's going to be a challenge for us all."

The meeting heard the issue of recruiting staff had become more difficult since Brexit as the care home workers wages were below the immigration salary threshold and finding people who would accept the unsocial hours and low pay was difficult.

Dale Owens, an assistant director for the council said: "Staff supply is certainly a problem. Until we fundamentally address some of the main issues around staff pay and working conditions we are not going to be able to tackle the issue."

However, Mr Owens highlighted how the council was looking to develop systems to ensure people could be cared for in their homes or in extra care facilities anywhere in North Yorkshire, which already boasts one of the country's most extensive extra care networks.

After the meeting, the committee's chair, Coun Karin Sedgwick said she believed occupancy rates would bounce back following the pandemic and that a group had been created to work with Mr Padgham to help shape the future of social care.

She said: "It's not all doom and gloom. We have got to say we are going to make the best of it and find a new way forward."