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Number of unfilled posts in social care rises to 110,000

The number of care job vacancies in England has risen to 110,000, according to a new report that has laid bare the growing crisis.

Training charity Skills for Care claims the rate of unfilled posts has jumped to eight per cent – up from 6.6 per cent in 2017. 

Experts today said the figures show social care is ‘struggling even more’ to get the workers needed to provide vital services.

On the back of the report, the Department of Health and Social Care announced it would soon launch a recruitment campaign.

The social care system in England is in crisis, experts have repeatedly warned, and an estimated 1.2 million frail or older people are not receiving the help they need.

Training charity Skills for Care claims the rate of unfilled posts has jumped to eight per cent – up from 6.6 per cent in 2017

Many are being denied assistance with basic daily tasks and either have to pay out of their own pockets or struggle alone.

The Government’s delayed social care green paper is now due to be published in autumn.  

Skills for Care conducted a comprehensive analysis of the 1.47 million-strong care workforce in England.

The charity’s report this year revealed the majority of vacancies, around 76,000, are for hands-on care workers. 

Projections show that the population aged 65 and over in England will increase by around 44 per cent to 14.5 million by 2035.

Skills for Care has warned an extra 650,000 extra jobs will be needed in social care in the next 17 years to cope with the surge. 

WHY IS THERE A CRISIS IN SOCIAL CARE?

The question of how to fund care for Britain’s ageing population has proved politically toxic for years.

A failure to provide enough care for the elderly either in their own homes or in care homes means patients get stuck on hospital wards – a major reason the NHS is creaking.

The average person needs £20,000 worth of care in their lifetime – but 10 per cent of people need much more, with conditions lasting decades costing over £1million.

The state currently only funds people with assets worth less than £23,350, leaving many people dependent on the NHS.

Fixing the problem will require billions of pounds but there is no political agreement on what to do.

Theresa May was forced into an embarrassing U-turn on the issue during the general election campaign two years ago.

The Tory manifesto proposed people should not have to pay bills during their lifetime but then fund them from their estate after death – with a guarantee they could keep at least £100,000 to pass on.

But the plan was derided as a ‘dementia tax’ because there was no cap on what people would have to pay – meaning those with degenerative conditions could face much higher bills than those who only become ill at the end of their lives.

In a further breakdown of the workforce, the report showed around 335,000 people employed in the sector were on a zero-hours contract.

The report revealed the average pay for council care employees was £9.80. But in the private sector, it was just £8.12 – less than what supermarket Aldi pays it staff.

 The average pay for council care employees was £9.80 an hour, while the average pay per hour in the private sector was £8.12.

The majority of the adult social care workforce were British, eight per cent had an EU nationality and a tenth were from outside of the EU.

A fifth of all workers, approximately 320,000 jobs, were aged over 55. While 31 per cent of carers left or changed jobs in the last calendar year.

Candace Imison, director of policy at the think tank Nuffield Trust, said: ‘Today’s figures show social care is struggling even more to get the workers needed to provide vital services, with turnover and vacancy rates continuing to rise.

‘Meanwhile, the Government is considering proposals to end less skilled migration from the EU.

‘Either we address the financial crisis that has pushed social care providers too far into the red to pay decent wages, or we continue to allow migration to fill these gaps after Brexit.

‘If the UK Government dodges these decisions in the next few months, it will mean directly endangering some of the most vulnerable people in our country.’ 

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: ‘We want to promote adult social care as a rewarding career of choice and attract and retain staff to the profession.

‘We are working to ensure the system is able to meet the demands of our growing ageing population and will soon launch a recruitment campaign to further raise the profile of the sector.

‘In the autumn, we’ll set out our plans to reform the social care system to make it sustainable for the future.’ 

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said: ‘The lingering crisis facing social care is one of the biggest and most neglected challenges of our generation. 

‘Today’s report reveals a service that is failing to cope now and faces meltdown in future unless urgent action is taken to deal with the twin challenges of funding and workforce. 

‘Social care is the scandal that has not dared speak its name, but we have to expose it now before it deteriorates still further.

‘The Government has promised an NHS plan for England but that cannot work without an accompanying social care plan which recognises the independence of the two sectors and tackles both funding and workforce.

‘Unless we act now, more social care services will close because they do not have the staff – that means abandoning some of our most vulnerable citizens.

‘We need a sustainable funding settlement to improve pay and conditions which will make this a more attractive sector in which to work.

‘The Prime Minister has promised to correct the mistakes of previous governments by putting an end to “siloed” working and to integrate health and social care. A great ambition – but we now need to see it realised.’ 

It comes after think tank The King’s Fund earlier this year warned England’s social care system is ‘at the point of crisis’. 

Simon Bottery, senior fellow for social care at The King’s Fund, said extra funding is just a ‘sticking plaster’.

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