Low pay and lack of opportunity are turning nurses away from social care roles as the government moves to tackle the high turnover rate.
In a review which concluded ‘major reform’ was required in social care, the Communities and Local Government Committee (CLGC) said Chancellor Philip Hammond’s pledge to provide an additional £2 billion in funding was welcome but fell short of what was required.
The turnover rate for nurses working in social care is 35.9%. Those surveyed identified low pay, lack of status, inadequate or non-existent training opportunities and limited career progression as significant barriers to an improvement of prospects and their reasons for leaving the sector.
Committee chair Clive Betts said: ‘During our inquiry we heard mounting concerns about the serious impact which inadequate funding is having both on the quality and on the level of care which people receive. We heard compelling evidence of acute threats to care providers' financial viability and an increasing reliance on unpaid carers.
‘It is clear there are also severe challenges in the care workforce, with high vacancy and turnover rates, and low pay, poor employment terms and conditions, lack of training and inadequate career opportunities the norm across the sector. A long-term fix, working on a cross-party basis and involving the public and social care sector, is urgently necessary to meet the ever-increasing demographic pressures on the system.’
Recommendations from CLGC included that the government work with the Local Government Association to publish a care workers' charter, drawing upon UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter, setting out what care workers can expect from their employer on wage levels, employment terms and conditions, training and career development.
The committee also recommended the status of care work be improved through better pay, better terms and conditions and a stronger career structure — from apprenticeship to registered nurse — with centrally delivered training with national standards and qualifications.
Royal College of Nursing employment relations adviser Clare Jacobs said: ‘Despite playing a critical role in delivering care, nurses and care assistants have been repeatedly undervalued, so it’s no wonder they are choosing alternate careers.
‘The government should heed CLGC’s warnings and put in place robust and long-term workforce planning arrangements to ensure we have enough care staff.’
Ms Jacobs also said all care staff should register to support training and raise standards.
CLGC’s report also called for an end to the so-called ‘price first, quality second’ approach local authorities take when choosing providers for social care services.