NAO warns on ‘neglected’ social care

9 Feb 18

The head of the National Audit Office has warned that social care in England is a “Cinderella service” in danger of collapse and needs more attention from ministers.

An NAO report published yesterday said the adult social care workforce was undervalued, understaffed and lacking in investment.

NAO head Amyas Morse said: “Social care cannot continue as a Cinderella service – without a valued and rewarded workforce, adult social care cannot fulfil its crucial role of supporting elderly and vulnerable people in society.

“Pressures and demands on the health and social care systems are increasing, so the department needs to respond quickly to this challenge by giving the sector the attention it deserves and needs, instead of falling short and not delivering value for money.”

In 2016-17 around half of the UK’s 1.43 million care workers were paid £7.50 per hour or less, which was just above the National Living Wage of £7.20 in that year.

In addition to low pay, numbers are dropping due to poor working conditions and a lack of career progression, according to the NAO.

The NAO findings shed light on a severe problem with staff turnover. In 2016-17, the annual turnover of all care staff was 27.8%. Registered nurses and care workers suffered the most from high turnover rates.

In addition to these numbers, the vacancy rate for social care jobs was 6.6% –well above the national average of 2.5%-2.7%.

It is suspected that this has directly affected care and research conducted by Age UK, cited by the NAO, estimated around 1.2 million people above 65 had “some level of unmet care needs in 2016-17”. This represents an increase from 1 million people in 2015-16.

To meet the demands of increased amounts of older people, the Department of Health and Social Care estimates that the workforce will need to grow by 2.6% every year until 2035.

However, annual growth in the number of jobs since 2013 has been 2% or lower, according to the NAO report.

Public Accounts Committee chair Meg Hillier said the social care workforce was in a “precarious state”.

She added: “The secretary of state has had ‘social care’ added to his title, but this change of name must be backed up by action to tackle this problem and reduce pressures on the NHS. He needs to act now.”

A DHSC spokesperson said: “We recognise there are challenges in the social care workforce – that’s why we are launching a consultation on the adult social care workforce and committed to publishing a health and care workforce strategy in the summer.”

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