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Government launches recruitment drive for adult social care

More social care workers are needed as people live longer Photo: Yui Mok/PA

The Government has launched a recruitment campaign to try to plug a hole of 110,000 vacancies in the social care workforce.

More than 1.45 million people work in social care at the moment, but an extra 650,000 workers will be needed by 2035 due to an ageing population, ministers said.

The move was welcomed by charities but they said more needed to be done to improve working conditions and pay.

The new campaign – Every Day Is Different – also comes as the Health Foundation published its own report on the NHS workforce, expressing concerns about the growing number of staff shortages across the board.

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It said there were “worrying trends” in community care, with a drop in nurses and health visitors in the community.

The new Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) campaign aims to promote social care as a career with good progression and professional development.

It will promote a range of roles, including carer in a nursing home, activities co-ordinator in the community, hospital occupational therapist and personal assistant in a person’s home.

Care minister Caroline Dinenage said: “There is huge demand for more care professionals who work incredibly hard to look after the most vulnerable people in our society.

“We must spread the word that careers in adult social care can be rewarding, varied and worthwhile.

“Care is a vocation where you can transform people’s lives and every day is different to the next.”

The campaign, which will run this month and next, includes print, radio, online and social media.

Staff turnover rate in the sector is 30.7%, equating to nearly 400,000 people leaving care jobs every year.

As of February 2018, the typical hourly rate for a care worker in the independent sector was £7.82 per hour.

Since then, the national minimum wage for anyone over 25 has risen by a penny to £7.83.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “A Government-led social care recruitment initiative is warmly welcome and long overdue, but it needs to be coupled with a raft of measures to improve the status, terms and conditions of the job.”

She added: “The long-awaited, multiply-postponed green paper is the obvious vehicle for bringing these measures forward and it needs to be published now if the recruitment campaign is really to achieve its potential.”

George McNamara, director of policy and influencing at Independent Age, said staff turnover in social care was twice the national average.

He added: “Workers are leaving due to low wages, little job progression, lack of training and perceived lower status compared to similar healthcare roles.

“Many of these issues should have already been addressed but haven’t because of delays to the social care green paper.

“Solely focusing on recruitment, without also addressing staff retention, will severely limit the impact of the campaign.”

In its report, the Health Foundation said NHS staff numbers as a whole are failing to keep pace with demand.

While the NHS long-term plan urges more care in the community and less care in hospital, the data shows a struggle to recruit the right mix of staff.

While the number of hospital-based doctors has continued to grow, the number of GPs has fallen by 1.6% – 450 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff – over the year to September 2018, the Health Foundation report said.

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The Government is also widely expected to miss its goal of recruiting 5,000 more GPs by 2020.

Similarly, numbers of nurses and health visitors working in community health services have continued their long-term decline, falling by 1.2% (540 FTE staff) in July 2018 compared with a year before, the Health Foundation said.

The number of mental health nursing staff has also increased by less than half a percent (170 FTE), while specialist learning disability nurses fell by 3.7% (120 FTE) over the same period.

The NHS as a whole is reporting 100,000 vacancies, of which 41,000 are nursing posts, the report went on.

Nursing and health visitor numbers grew by just 0.5% between July 2017 and July 2018, while the number of midwives increased by less than 1%.

The report said “another worrying trend” was staff retention, which has worsened since 2011/12, with work-life balance increasingly reported as a factor for people leaving the NHS.

Concerns over Brexit have also had an impact, with recruitment from the EU falling significantly.

Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, said: “Providing more care outside of hospitals is central to the NHS long-term plan but the health service faces an uphill struggle.

“If it can’t recruit and retain more healthcare professionals in primary, mental health and community care, this will continue to be an unrealised aspiration.

“There is unfortunately no sign that the long-term downward trend for key staff groups, most notably GPs, will be reversed.

“International recruitment remains vital but it is being constrained by migration policies and the uncertainties of Brexit.

“We urgently need a coherent strategy that involves Government health departments, the Home Office, regulators and employers, and which is embedded in overall national health workforce planning.”