Ideas & Observations
‘Care providers should work together to lead much-needed change in sector’
October 6, 2023
Social care is facing the “perfect storm” of a workforce crisis and soaring demand for support – and new approaches to a career in care are central to helping address this, one of the leading figures in the sector told a North East event.
Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, outlined the need to redefine the image and perception of a career in social care, as being a key aspect in addressing the growing crisis in meeting the needs of an ageing population, with more acute healthcare needs than ever before.
And against a backdrop of increasing need, yet not enough workers to meet demand, Prof Green told the Care Crisis conference in Newcastle that action must be taken now – and it must come from within the sector itself.
“The challenges are enormous and we are now at the point of the perfect storm,” he told the event, attended by a host of senior healthcare professionals from across the region, and organised by law firm Slater and Gordon.
“It is a tough road, but we have many brilliant people and like-minded people working in care, who can come together as a coalition and who are willing to start the change.
“Every Prime Minister since Tony Blair has promised to address this issue, and every one has failed.
“Successive Governments have failed to tackle this. Politicians don’t deal with this in a proactive way – so we need to take the agenda into our own hands.
“If we look to politics to deliver the outcome we want and need, we are going to be sorely disappointed.”
Prof Green, joined by care company owners Louise Chance, of a Chance for Life, Maggie Sargent, who owns CCMS, and personal injury barrister Andrew Axon as chair of the event, discussed the outlook for the sector – which employs 1.4 million people, yet has at least 154,000 vacancies currently.
Staff turnover can be as high as 30 per cent.
The profile of social care as a profession was one key area identified as being crucial to future change.
“We need to do things differently to make social care an attractive destination as a career choice.
“People see it as a job, but it’s actually a career, and a very specialist career at that,” said Prof Green, who hails from Northumberland and now leads the largest body representing social care providers in England.
“There needs to be a proper framework in place for skills and career pathways, and we need to have portable qualifications.
“There also needs to be the investment in place. The NHS spends £100,000 a minute on training – it is a disservice to invest in one part of the system and not another.
“The workforce crisis impacts how people can access services. Often, they can’t do so until there is a critical need.
“There is a lot of unmet need, but also huge challenges for those professionals working in this sector. They are constantly under pressure.
“We need to start from where we are, and I do recognise that getting the oil tanker to turn is a big job. It will take time, but we need to start.”
Maggie said the need to ‘grow your own’ care staff is an important aspect of creating the next generation of the workforce.
“We need to do it ourselves, to train people and develop them, so they have the skills they need. We are clinicians and have done it ourselves, so we have the skills to train others,” said Maggie, whose case management business is based in Darlington but works nationally.
“As professionals working in care, and being passionate about person-centred care, we can do this to the standards we want and expect for our clients.”
Louise, who directly employs support workers within her Cumbria-based business, also highlighted the need to address the funding available to meet care needs, particularly amid the cost of living crisis.
“I have one client who has been with me for years. He pays an hourly rate which is all he can afford – but against the cost pressures that exist in care, the hourly rate I am paying my staff is quickly catching up to the hourly rate we are charging,” she said.
“This is not sustainable and is very worrying. We need to pay people fairly for the skilled work they do, but acknowledge this is an essential role we are playing and fund it properly.”
The event was held by Slater and Gordon as part of a series of national roundtable events tackling prominent issues in healthcare – an area in which the law firm is prominent through its work in supporting people after life-changing injury.
John Davis, consultant principal lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said: “The care sector plays a vital role in society, and it is in all our interests that this is buoyant and thriving, rather than struggling to carry out its life-changing work.
“Those working in care are doing a fantastic job, frequently under great pressure – but we must support them in that, and create the next generation of care workers to ensure we can look to a positive future.
“The sector itself has a crucial part to play in leading this change.
“Through events like this, we can bring together many of the key people working in care to discuss collectively what we can do to support the future of the sector.
“While acknowledging there is a long way to go, the will and dedication of those at this event to make change was really very positive to see.”