Some of the reports around wages for care workers and how those without access to care are coping make for unpleasant reading. One case reported by the The Guardian wrote of an elderly lady who tied her husband, a dementia sufferer, to a chair so that she was able to go out to the shops. It may sound a harsh step to take, but with no care available it was her only option.
There are numerous tales about low wages and long working days for carers too. The Guardian reported on a care worker employed to sleep at a service user’s home in case of emergency or incident. The worker was paid £29.05 for the entire time she was on shift. In addition to the night work she was paid a low hourly rate of £6.70 for the day. In turn the Financial Times shared details of one colossal shift undertaken by a care worker – 48 visits were crammed into a 17 hour working day. After finishing at midnight, work continued just after 3am. This is not sustainable.
Recruitment Targets Falling Short
Finding staff to ease some of these pressures is proving problematic. The Office for National Statistics found that around 15% of advertised jobs at the start of 2017 were in the health and social work sectors. Vacancy rates for social workers have risen from 7.3% in 2012 to 11% in 2016 and it must also be taken into consideration that 340,000 social care employees leave the profession each year.
An Ageing Workforce
- New Workers: Attracting younger people into the profession will be vital for its continuation, let alone success. Working with schools and apprenticeship schemes can alert younger people to the benefits of social work and such programs are already being put into place
- Wages: Wages are notoriously low in this sector – public sector squeezing has only made them worse. More funding (although tax payer purse strings are already tight) is essential for these workers to lessen the high turnover of staff and make jobs more appealing
- Hours: Hours also need to be improved – a 17 hour working day followed by a 3am start is a sure fire way to burnout
We’ll finish on an interesting point we read in the Financial Times. Social care vacancy rates are some of the fastest growing in the UK. They are also uniquely human jobs, unable to be taken over by automation and robotics as with sectors such as manufacturing and software. So with social work some of the most stable of the future, shouldn’t we be investing more in it as a nation?
Vacancy rates for social workers have risen from 7.3% in 2012 to 11% in 2016 and it must also be taken into consideration that 340,000 social care employees leave the profession each year.