Social care in England is unable to fill posts, retain staff and offer proper services due to low pay and excessive workloads, the National Audit Office (NAO) has found.
There are roughly 1.34 million social care positions in England. Within this, most of the 815,000 people working as carers are on less than £7.50 an hour – the national minimum wage – and a third are on zero-hour contracts.
This has meant a recruitment and retention crisis for the service as 6.6% of posts remain unfilled and 27.8% of workers leave their jobs each year.
‘Social care cannot continue as a Cinderella service,’ says Amyas Morse, head of the NAO.
‘Without a valued and rewarded workforce, adult social care cannot fulfil its crucial role of supporting elderly and vulnerable people in society.’
The report showed that the vacancy rate for nurses has ‘more than doubled between 2012-13 and 2016-17’, despite the overall number of jobs falling. There are now 8000 fewer nurses working in social care than there were in 2012-13.
The report comes amid government plans to restructure the social care sector. It has committed to a Green Paper on the issue, with proposals to be published in the summer.
The report said the current situation was due to a lack of workforce planning and adequate funding, which was undermining the service.
‘The Department cannot demonstrate that the sector is sustainably funded, which makes workforce planning difficult,’ said the report.
Janet Davies, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: ‘This report paints a damning picture of a cut-price service that lets down older people and those who work hard to care for them.
‘We will never get the kind of care we all want for our relatives until social care tops the list of Government priorities, not budget cuts.’
Currently, only 1 in 5 older people receive care from council services. The majority either get their care from family and friends (37.5%) or they receive little or no help at all (30%).
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: ‘This report is a damning indictment of the failure of successive governments to carry out workforce planning and the end result is the dangerously fragile situation we see today.’
For Janet Davies, the report puts the blame ‘fairly and squarely at the Government’s door’ and ‘It lays bare the lack of recognition, financial reward and career progression staff can expect’ when joining social care.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said the government has provided an extra £2 billion of funding for the sector and ‘will outline plans to reform social care’ in a sustainable way this summer.