Employers love to argue that other factors are just as important as
pay when it comes to retaining staff – and then ignore those as
Of course, if someone is under intolerable pressure, more money
won’t solve the problem. It might keep them on board for longer,
though – and we need short-term fixes as well as strategies.
This week’s report from the Audit Commission has essential lessons
for social care employers. But they must not use the fact that pay
is not the only factor in retention as an excuse to ignore its
In social care, the perception that the work is undervalued and
misunderstood is a major cause of the recruitment and retention
crisis. And salary levels for front-line staff confirm their lack
of status. In fact they rub their noses in it.
Meanwhile, the government strives to ensure its investment in
public services is not spent on pay – as though decent pay was not
fundamental to improving quality.
A high-profile, national investigation is needed into how to halt
the flight from the public sector. This should share recruitment
and retention expertise around the country and put an end to the
rivalry that hampers co-operation between public sector employers.
It must also have the power to make recommendations that the
government feels under some pressure to act upon.
Too many of those working in social care can’t do the job they were
inspired to do because of bureaucracy, lack of resources, excessive
workloads and unsupportive management. Managers themselves are
ill-prepared and overburdened, which makes the only means of
earning decent money look distinctly unattractive. No wonder people
Meanwhile, outsiders see a sector subject to constant criticism and
change. So they want to stay on the outside.
The government can’t deliver better, more efficient and new
services while ignoring the needs of those who must deliver them.
It’s an obvious truth that ministers refuse to face.