King’s Fund points to crisis

    Care and support services for older and disabled people need
    more money and urgent improvements if they are to avoid the
    recruitment and retention crisis facing the NHS, the King’s Fund
    said this week.

    A report of a 10-month inquiry warns that care and support
    services face collapse without an injection of £700
    million.

    Unless the government matches social services funding to NHS
    funding, its capacity to deliver the modernisation agenda will be
    seriously compromised, it claims. “Without such investment, care
    and support services will be struggling to stand still. They will
    be unable to address the major improvements needed in quality or to
    meet the additional requirements of new national standards.”

    The inquiry report focused on the quality of physical, practical
    and emotional support to adults needing help because of frailty in
    old age, mental health problems, physical disability, chronic
    illness or learning difficulties.

    It shows that the estimated one million care and support workers
    are poorly paid, not trained sufficiently, have too little time to
    care, and are inadequately supported by managers.

    Two-thirds of the workforce did not hold a relevant
    qualification and the average wage was about £5 per hour. The
    inquiry made 15 recommendations, including the need for an urgent
    review of the shortcomings of care National Vocational
    Qualifications. “The attainment of a care NVQ has to be something
    that is seen as a sound and reliable indicator of a competent
    worker.”

    It recommends that the General Social Care Council should revise
    its timetable for registering care workers so that it does not just
    rely on qualifications. There should be an interim register to
    include all unqualified social care workers employed by local
    authorities and the independent sector, with target dates for their
    full registration on the basis of qualification.

    The quality of care and support services fell far short of what
    users and carers should be able to expect. Staff turnover was high,
    and is likely to get worse as the workforce ages and there is
    increasing competition in the labour market. Meanwhile, there is
    inadequate training for care and support workers before qualifying
    and during their careers.

    King’s Fund chief executive Julia Neuberger said: “The
    government should make a concerted effort to recruit, retain and
    equip thousands of committed and able people to work in care and
    support services.”

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