Hot Take: It’s the workforce, stupid!
Caring Times editor-in-chief Lee Peart welcomes this month’s announcement of a care workforce pathway, but argues the government must also address poor pay in the sector to solve the recruitment crisis.
The government’s announcement of a Care Workforce Pathway and a new care certificate qualification came as welcome news and provided grounds for hope that the adult social care workforce is finally beginning to receive some of the recognition it deserves.
The moves by the government, which also include more funding for learning and development, apprenticeships and a new digital leadership qualification, will go some way to professionalising the workforce and making care a more attractive career pathway.
With around 152,000 vacancies, representing just under 10% of the workforce, a high turnover rate of 28% and recent government announcements likely to make access to overseas workers increasingly difficult, urgent action is clearly needed to stabilise the sector both now and for the future. It is estimated that around 440,000 more people will be required to meet rising demand from an ageing population over the next 10 years.
Conspicuously absent from the government’s announcement, however, was the issue of pay, which is surely a key fundamental to making care a desirable and sustainable career for more people.
In recent months, we’ve seen examples of local authorities increasing funding so that care providers are able to provide their workforce a Real Living Wage. In many cases, however, especially in the most deprived parts of the country, local authorities simply don’t have the resources to bridge the gap.
In the end, it must come down to central government to invest the required funding to ensure all carers are paid a fair wage, in order to attract and retain more domestic workers. Linking salaries to equivalent NHS bands would provide an appropriate pay scale that recognises social care as the highly skilled profession it is.
Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have made care worker pay pledges in their general election campaigns.
Labour has promised to introduce a fair pay agreement for care workers in its first 100 days that allows staff to move seamlessly between health and social care.
Labour has also vowed to remove the lower earnings limit on sick pay, so that workers can claim from day one, and to ensure that National Minimum Wage limits are enforced on travel, so that care workers are paid fairly for the work they do.
The Lib Dems have pledged to introduce a Minimum Wage for care workers that is £2 above the National Minimum Wage, as well as a Royal College of Care Workers to offer the workforce a platform to advocate for different or better qualifications, a change to pay scales and career pathways.
It’s imperative that whoever forms the next government makes properly paying our heroic care workforce a number one priority.