Chronic under-funding of adult social care in the North is sparking a workforce crisis, the Government was warned today, as calls were made to reverse budget cuts and introduce the Living Wage for the sector to address a “national scandal”.
Bosses at a leading think tank claim that poor job quality and low pay, coupled with a 50 per cent fall in local authority funding since 2010, mean social care now faces a spiralling workforce shortage of 100,000 in the sector across England as it struggles to cope with the rising demand of an ageing population.
Some 54,000 social care workers in Yorkshire, who look after some of society’s most vulnerable, are now earning below the real Living Wage of £9 per hour, including nearly one third who are working under zero hours contracts, as funding has been slashed by seven per cent between 2009 and 2016, analysis by IPPR found.
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Ahead of the publication of the Government’s Green Paper on adult social care exploring how to attract more people to the workforce, the think tank is today calling for the Living Wage to be introduced to the sector that it claims would see a pay rise of more than £1,000 for 160,000 workers across the North.
Joe Dromey, senior research fellow at IPPR, said: “The treatment of the social care workforce is a national scandal.
“They provide a vital public service to some of the most vulnerable members of our community. But they face endemic low pay and insecurity. This is not just bad for care workers; it is bad for the quality of care too, and it is undermining the sustainability of the whole system.”
It comes after senior councillors at North Yorkshire County Council last month said radical culture changes were now needed to tackle the social care crisis, after the Local Government Association in July warned that the challenge of meeting demand for the sector to plug an £80m funding gap was pushing Yorkshire’s local authorities to the brink.
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A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said the Government will soon launch a national recruitment campaign before winter, in an effort to boost the “image and profile” of adult social care jobs.
He said the average salary for the sector had risen by nine per cent since 2015, despite the high proportion of vacancies.
The Green Paper, due before 2019, is expected to set out the Government’s plans to reform the adult social care system.
Mr Dromey added: “We will only tackle the social care workforce crisis, and we will only improve quality of care if we improve pay and conditions in social care. Government should use the upcoming Green Paper to introduce the real Living Wage in social care.”
While social care spending has been slashed by seven per cent in Yorkshire over the last decade, it has fallen to lows of 13 per cent in the North West and a nearly 20 per cent in the North East, the IPPR’s analysis found.
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The Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “The social care workforce is vital and we know they work tirelessly to support the most vulnerable people in our society. On average, hourly pay rates are higher than the national minimum wage and the average salary has risen by nine per cent since 2015.
“We want to promote adult social care as a career of choice and are launching a national recruitment campaign in the new year to raise the image and profile of the sector, while our upcoming green paper will look at how we can better attract and retain a valued workforce.”