CQC joins call for care staff pay boost to prevent ‘tsunami of unmet need’

Government finds £162.5m to boost recruitment and retention as regulator's annual state of care report shows vacancies in care homes are forcing some to stop providing care

Old metal sign with the inscription Vacancies
Photo: Zerbor/Adobe Stock

The Care Quality Commisison has joined the call for increased pay for care staff after its annual State of Care report warned failing to invest in staff risked a ‘tsunami of unmet need’.

The regulator said care homes were being forced to cancel their registrations to provide nursing care because of mounting staff shortages, leaving residents having to find new homes in areas that were already close to capacity.

The warning came as the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced £162.5m, until the end of March, to help providers recruit and retain staff.

The CQC found that staff vacancies in residential care had risen from 6% to 10.2% from April to September 2021, as care homes battle competition for staff from retail and hospitality sectors. This is ahead of the introduction, next month, of a requirement for care home staff to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, which the government estimates will cost the sector 40,000 jobs.

In a foreword to the report, CQC chief executive Ian Trenholm and chair Peter Wyman, cited the £5.4bn the government has allocated for social care reform from 2022-25, including £500m for the workforce, saying: “If the funding for social care is to have any impact, there must be a sharp focus on developing a clearly defined career pathway for social care staff – linked to training and supported by consistent investment, higher overall levels of pay to increase the competitiveness of the market, and good terms and conditions to ensure employers can attract and retain the right people.”

‘Tsunami of unmet need’

“The alternative is that the sector will continue to lose staff to the retail and hospitality industries. This will lead to reduced capacity and choice, and poorer quality care for the people who rely on social care – resulting in a ripple effect across the wider health and care system that risks becoming a tsunami of unmet need across all sectors, with increasing numbers of people unable to access care.”

The regulator’s warning about the state of the workforce joins those of several other sector bodies over several months. Earlier this week, provider body the National Care Forum and UNISON warned health and social care secretary Sajid Javid that an immediate pay boost was needed to stop providers having to turn down requests for care.

A survey of care managers by the NCF and the Outstanding Manager Network  found vacancy rates of 17%, while Skills for Care’s annual state of the adult social care workforce last week reported mounting vacancies, rising sick leave and a reduced supply of staff from overseas.

Recruitment and retention fund 

The ring-fenced funding, announced yesterday by the DHSC, will be allocated to local authorities to distribute to providers for use on recruitment and measures to retain staff.

The latter may include overtime payments and provision to fund bank working, as well as occupational health provision to support health and wellbeing.

Minister for care Gillian Keegan said: “The social care workforce has delivered high-quality care in the most challenging circumstances over the past 18 months – showing true dedication and professionalism – and I can’t thank them enough.

“This funding will help care providers recruit and retain staff, supporting both those already making a difference while bringing in new colleagues to help.”

Stability of social care is key

The CQC said that improving the stability of social care was not only key to improving access and quality of care for people needing care, but to easing pressures on the NHS.

It called for short-term, Covid-related funding, allocated to the NHS since March 2020 to enable people to be discharged from hospital quickly by providing care and support, to be extended long-term.

Trenholm and Wyman said this had “improved patient flow and has made a crucial difference to the viability of some social care providers”.

They added: “If this funding were to be committed to for a longer period, care providers could begin to make longer term investments in staffing and buildings to provide much-needed step-down care.”

However, they said the sector also needed an immediate funding boost this winter to help areas struggling with mounting demand.

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6 Responses to CQC joins call for care staff pay boost to prevent ‘tsunami of unmet need’

  1. Berni October 22, 2021 at 2:11 pm #

    Its too easy to say this article is spot on , which it is , but we have got to start making solid plans somewhere for social care .

    I am often struck when I am speaking with carers and support workers how these said same people often have a poor view of their role . ” I am only a support worker ” I hear it all the time .

    Would local authorities be willing to consider setting up a training guild for their area and over see good quality training with qualifications . Would the then local authorities ensure that these professional workers are registered and have regular training .

    Said local authority could then start to meet gaps locally by providing those trained individuals paid of course by the care companies who they work for . Could the local authority take on care packages with this new work force once trained and set it up as a social enterprise with the service running at cost and where there are left over monies plough these back into training and decent rates of hourly pay and hey even rewards for outstanding staff.

    The foundation courses could serve as a conduit to nursing with top up qualifications . Once the care company functioning as a social enterprise is stable and functioning well it could then be transferred to a philanthropic organisation to run , again at cost .

    Ah , what am I thinking surely someone would have done this already could it be what we pay for care does not always go into the work force and there is always the profit incentive AKA business.

    Should anyone profit by care , I would say no but others may disagree . Hey maybe the government could provide a central fund for a pilot like this to be set up .

    This is but one idea from someone on the front line surely people in positions of leadership and political jobs have many more ideas than this – surely .

    You/we need social care to be professionalised and give its brilliant workforce a much needed boost .Warm words and political nods is not enough we have to change the language and discourse of social care by actually doing something about it.

    Come on someone lead .

  2. Anonymous October 23, 2021 at 5:52 am #

    And yet, still no u-turn over the vaccine. Anyone would think this government want social care to fail.

    • Chris Sterry October 25, 2021 at 8:12 pm #

      I believe that the Government does want Social Care to fail and this has been their quest for years as it is the only explanation for the severe lack of funding of social care for as many years as I can remember.

      Not only this Government but many previous Governments.

  3. Aki October 25, 2021 at 10:43 am #

    I’m appalled that CQC sees it fit to compare this to a tsunami. Desist from using this. It’s inappropriate and distressing.

  4. Chris Sterry October 25, 2021 at 8:23 pm #

    Funding from the Government, much more than the paltry amounts already announced, which are way too little, way too late, needs to be made available immediately, but this is never going to materialise from this Government.

    Staffing will continue to diminish and then that will be the end of social care and the demise of many in need of social care and then the wishes of this Government and many before them will have come through.

    If this Government wishes to see Social Care survive then substantial investment is require of at least £12 billion and the alteration of the UK Immigration Policy to encourage persons from out of the UK to come and work in Social Care.

    To make Social Care a more attractive prospect the rate of pay for care workers is required to increase to at least £14/15 per hour and a sick pay arrangement be introduced.

    Many other improvements are required but the above are very essential.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Seven in eight commissioners paying below 'minimum rate for home care' – Communitycare.co.uk – Health Jobs in the UK - October 26, 2021

    […] Last week, the Department of Health and Social Care announced £162.5m to support recruitment and retention initiatives across adult social care from now until March 2022, but this is designed to tackle current pressures rather than next year’s rise in the living wage. These pressures have seen vacancies rise while job numbers fall, indicating that providers are finding it increasingly difficult to find the right people to fill jobs. […]