Low pay and poor working conditions have led to a “crisis” in the care sector, with employers struggling to recruit and retain the staff needed to meet rapidly rising demand, a new report has warned.
On current trends, there will be a shortage of 350,000 workers in social care by 2028, rising to nearly 400,000 if freedom of movement ends after Brexit, said the IPPR.
The think tank said the “growing workforce crisis” had been caused by chronic underfunding, and a dysfunctional social care system.
Outsourced providers have tried to compete by minimising wage costs, with care workers suffering as a result, it was claimed.
The report says National Insurance contributions should be increased by 1p in the pound to provide the social care sector with a long-term funding settlement, enabling better pay while also delivering personal care that is free at the point of need.
Joe Dromey of the IPPR said: “The treatment of the care workforce is a national scandal. They provide vital support for some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Yet half of care workers are paid below the real living wage.
“Improving pay and job quality in social care is not just the right thing to do. It is essential if we are to tackle the growing workforce crisis and ensure that the growing number of people who desperately need care as they grow older can be properly looked after.
“Introducing the real living wage and rolling out sectoral collective bargaining in social care would help fix the workforce crisis, ensure fair treatment for care workers and mean better care for those who need it.”
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis added: “Low pay and a lack of funding are at the very heart of the social care crisis.
“Cash-strapped councils don’t have enough to spend on care. So the firms who get the contracts end up squeezing staff wages.
“Care workers on poverty pay have to put in very long hours, often across several jobs. It’s no wonder many don’t stay for long.
“They and the people they look after are paying the price. The crisis in care can no longer be ignored.”