More care workers and fewer managers as cost squeeze pushes up salaries

Providers are finding it harder to recruit enough managers to provide adequate support to frontline staff, according to the National Care Forum

The number of care workers per manager in England is rising, a Skills for Care report has revealed.

The proportion of frontline care workers in the workforce increased from 74% in 2011 to 76% in 2014, an increase of 130,000 jobs, while the number of care managers has stayed flat.

The executive director of not-for-profit provider umbrella group the National Care Forum, Des Kelly, said this was consistent with the NCF’s own surveys over the last few years.

“I suspect that’s because providers are being squeezed,” he said. “You can’t cut down on frontline staff because there are statutory minimums whereas by cutting down on managers you can reduce the cost.

Pushing up salaries

“Experienced managers do wider-reaching roles than they would have done in the past which is putting a lot of pressure on them. We are seeing the impact in terms of difficulties recruiting, which in turn pushes up the salaries disproportionately.”

Kelly said this was storing up problems for the future as fewer managers meant less professional supervision and support for frontline staff.

“We’ve had years of cuts and under-funding and we are beginning to see the signs of that,” he said.

The report by Skills for Care detailed the size and structure of the adult social care workforce in 2014. It drew on a number of data sources, predominately the National Minimum Data Set for Social Care, which collects information about social care providers and their staff.

The report found that while the number of people receiving direct payments in England had risen from around 65,000 to more than 230,000 from 2008-14, the number of people employing their own staff has not increased at the same rate, meaning people are tending to buy in services than employ personal assistants.

The proportion of people employing staff fell from 45% to 29% of all direct payment users.

Lack of accurate information

But Disability Rights UK deputy chief executive Sue Botts said accurate information about the number of personal assistant employers was not routinely collected.

She added the decline in the proportion of people using direct payments to employ staff may be a result of resource constraints, which have seen the amount of money received decrease.

“It may be that there are only sufficient funds for occasional respite rather than employing staff,” she said.

She added that employing personal assistants was becoming more complicated because of changes such as the requirement on direct payment users to pay into a pension for employees’ and reductions in funding for direct payment support organisations. Many of these help direct payment users with their employment duties.

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