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Mass exodus of social care workers threatening sector's future

Warnings have been sent about the crumbling state of social care as a key health organisation today stated that one in four social care staff were leaving the profession every year.

This is despite the fact that demand for services continues to rise year-on-year whilst funding in the sector fails to keep up with an ageing population.

In a report released by the Health Foundation called ‘A Sustainable Workforce - the lifeblood of the NHS and social care’, it was estimated that more than 900 social care workers leave the profession every day – sparking more serious concern about the long-term sustainability of social care.

On top of that, the findings warn that 27% of staff left social care in 2015-16 – a rise from 23% in 2012-13. The Foundation also stated that a number of challenges across the sector, including pay restraints, the national living wage and rising staff shortages were forcing many people to quit their jobs in social care.

Earnings for social care staff fell 6% in real terms between 2010 and 2017, a larger drop than the economy as a whole where average earnings fell by 2%.

And social care wages were found to fall some way below the national living wage which is around £7.50 an hour, as in 2016 39% of adult social care staff aged 25 or over reported that they were paid less than the living wage.

Many social care services were also found to be increasingly reliant on agency staff to deliver core services, as in 2016 one in 10 staff were employed on a temporary basis and one in four were being employed on zero-hour contracts.

Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, said: “It is clear that both the NHS and the social care system in England are struggling to secure the staff they need.

Charlesworth also reiterated points made in the House of Lords’ Select Committee report on ‘The Long-Term Sustainability of the NHS and Adult Social Care’, as she said that sustainability over the next 20 years was one of the greatest risks to these vital services.

“The high rate of staff voting with their feet and leaving social care jobs raises concerns about the sustainability of the service and its ability to ensure high-quality care,” she added. “Retention, recruitment and morale will continue to be a thorn in the side of the health and social care sector if action is not taken to address the root cause of these problems.”

Charlesworth also described pay restraints as a policy that was “testing the resilience of the workforce,” as she warned that the continued implementation of this policy could risk standards for care slipping even further.

Uncertainty over Brexit is another key concern,” Charlesworth said. “Around 90,000 social care workers are from the EU, and over 60,000 in the NHS (more than one in 20). 

“If there is a significant reduction in EU health and care staff following the UK’s decision to leave the EU it could have major implications for the quality and availability of services.”

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