DoH concerned over Northamptonshire’s ability to carry out care duties

1 Mar 18

Northamptonshire County Council is the only local authority giving the Department of Health and Social Care concern about its ability to deliver statutory care responsibilities, a group of MPs heard.

Department permanent secretary Chris Wormald told a Public Accounts Committee hearing on the sector’s workforce issues yesterday that despite “significant financial pressures” other provider councils were coping.

Northamptonshire has hit a financial crisis and warned this week that its adult care service was on the brink of becoming unsafe.

Committee member Gillian Keegan, Conservative MP for Chichester, asked Wormald whether there was a danger of other such failures since “you cannot open a newspaper without reading concerns on social care”.

He replied: “This is a sector that faces significant financial pressures. In terms of local authorities’ statutory duties, with the exception of Northamptonshire others when we look are fulfilling their duties.

“We think there is sufficient funding to deliver statutory duties, but quite clearly challenges for local authorities.”

Glen Garrod, vice president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said social care costs varied considerably with labour costs, citing less than £14 per hour paid by some northern councils to £26 in Gloucestershire.

He warned an emerging issue was that the NHS bought more social care than it did a decade ago, and so it competed with councils for some 15-20% of bed spaces.

Turning to Brexit, the committee’s Labour chair Meg Hillier asked Wormald: “Many adult care staff are EU citizens, what are you doing to make sure the sector can survive the shock in final [Brexit] deal?”

He said workers from the EU and beyond were “extremely important in the care workforce and their contribution is highly valued, and so far we have not seen a decline in numbers from EU. “

Wormald said talks were in progress with the Home Office on how immigration rules should be framed to allow the social care sector to continue to recruit the staff it needs.

Sharon Allen, chief executive of sector workforce development body Skills for Care, said there was a ‘churn’ of roughly 1,000 posts a day in social care, with 90,000 jobs vacant on any given day and an average stay of only one year after being appointed.

She said even good employers struggled to recruit in London and the south east, and some other more affluent areas such as North Yorkshire.

Training investment was low with about 48% of the workforce possessing a qualification at NVQ level 2 or above, a rate that had changed little since 2011.

Hillier said: “If you pay people cheap as chips you don’t get the workforce you need, long term shouldn’t your vision be for a better qualified sector?”

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